Instead of hats, 11-year-old Naimah Cruz wears many beautiful crowns.
She is an A+ student in the sixth grade at Bergman Elementary, a member of Student Council, an actress, model, writer, musician, dancer and gymnast. But above all her impressive titles at age 11, she is also Royal International Miss Kansas Pre-Teen.
“One of my dreams was to win Miss Kansas,” Cruz said. “… Like an hour after I was crowned, it still didn’t sink it yet. It was just unbelievable. I was really thankful for everybody who helped me be where I am now.”
Cruz started pageants in 2014.
“(My mom and I) really didn’t have an interest in pageants,” Cruz said. “But then I received an invitation to an open-call for a pageant called National American Miss. So we decided to go. It was really fun.”
At her first pageant, she placed third runner-up among 80 girls in the Miss Kansas Princess title at National American Miss.
She later qualified to attend the national pageant in California. Competing against about 180 girls from around the country, she was the first runner-up at the National American Miss.
Cruz’s mother, Vangalis Razo, suggested Cruz try another pageant system after all of her success. Royal International Miss was a new experience for Cruz, where she won the Miss Kansas Pre-Teen title in Kansas City this past December.
Cruz has participated in pageants with a formal wear, interview, modeling and talent categories, among others.
Building friendships is Cruz’s favorite part about participating in pageants. Cruz said her best friend, whom she met at a previous pageant, is from Hawaii.
“As I go to pageants more and more, I get to reunite with other friends I’ve made at other pageants,” Cruz said. “And I even get to make new friends. And I really like when I’m older, l just like, let’s just say I see one of the girls I met at pageants like at college, I’ll know them. Like I can have life-long friendships.”
Cruz received a Heart of Service award from Royal International Miss after donating books and clothes and completing 839 hours of community service.
“We just kept doing it and doing it until I turned it into my platform I use for pageants. It’s called ‘Sharing a Little KS,’” she said.
She has won local acting awards and also placed second in Kansas after competing in the Daughters of the American Revolution essay contest.
She also has won the Miss Manhattan pageant and the Sweetheart of Summer pageant in Overland Park.
She has garnered academic achievement awards and placed in the top 20 in the entire world in National American Miss pageants.
Razo said she loves seeing her daughter achieve her goals.
“I always love seeing her doing what she loves to do,” she said. “And it’s priceless (to) see when she gets any awards. That means too much to me.”
Cruz hopes to continue to better the community of Manhattan.
“Just like someone can never be perfect, a community can never be perfect. So I want to help our community be the best that we can be,” she said. “So instead of calling (it) the Little Apple, we can be called the Little Successful Apple.”
She hopes to win the National American Miss title in the future.
“That title to me is so meaningful,” she said.
She also wants to win international titles, other than American titles. She is bilingual in English and Spanish. Her family is from Mexico City, Mexico.
She also wants to help her little brother, Jordan, and little sister, Fridah, be successful.
“I want to teach my siblings that you have to be a good person, you also need to study for school so you can be successful, and that you can help out in your community because your community is where you live. I really want to be a role model to my siblings.”
In the future, Cruz aspires to attend Harvard University and become a lawyer. For now, she hopes to bring her elementary GPA from 4.05 to 4.5.
She said she looks up to many people, including Oprah Winfrey, Simone Biles and her mother.
“Before I go on stage, I’m just like ‘OK, be nice, kind, just like Oprah Winfrey,’” Cruz said.
Cruz said her mom has taught her never to give up on her dreams and to keep trying no matter what.
“If you live in somewhere like in America, it’s like the land of opportunity, and you can succeed in any way you want,” she said.