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Part One: Chanelle Prepares for the Pageant

Posted on April 24, 2011

By Bob Spoerl for

Rogers Park resident and Lane Tech senior Chanelle Hutchinson celebrates her 18th birthday on Easter Sunday this year, one week before she vies for the title of Miss Chicago Teen.

“I hope at least I get top 10 so I can say it’s worth my time,” Hutchinson jokes during an interview.

But she’s serious about this pageant and her future plans. She considers herself traditional in some ways and says she hopes the pageant will help her “be more comfortable with myself and continue my education.”

Chanelle Hutchinson is a senior at Lane Tech High School, the city’s largest high school. Known for its diverse student body and highly selective admissions, Tech is a place a student can get lost in. The school’s won over 500 city championships since it opened its doors more than 100 years ago. It’s a prestigious place for a city teen to study and play.
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Mixed feelings best describe the way Chanelle feels about her years at Lane Tech. She’s upset she didn’t make the soccer team – after all, she’s been playing competitively in the American Youth Soccer Organization since kindergarten.  She continues to play club soccer in Evanston.

Kicking around a soccer ball is not her only hobby. She majored in art while at Lane Tech and plays in the school’s advanced symphony as a cellist.

While music and soccer get her through the day, Chanelle says her real passion is caring for animals. Her pet lineup includes two hamsters and a dog – and she considers herself a godmother of sorts to her neighbor’s pet rat. Ultimately, she’d like to become a veterinarian. That starts with studying biology at Northeastern Illinois next fall.

Chanelle’s first choice was to attend the University of Cincinnati.  She thought it’d be an opportunity to branch out on her own, try a new city and state. Unfortunately, she just found out that the scholarship money Cincinnati offered her is not enough for her single mother to send Chanelle to her dream college. Instead, she’ll be within a bus ride of her mom’s Rogers Park apartment near Howard and Western. 

“I won’t go away, I’ll have to stay here and work,” she says.  “But it’s ok – I’m still getting my degree.

Scholarship from the Pageant
One of the reasons Chanelle decided to interview for a spot (she was selected among the many girls who interviewed April 3) is the scholarship prize promised to a National winner. If Hutchinson wins the pageant in the Chicago area, she wins a trophy, tiara and modeling package. Also, if she wins, she’ll pack her bags this December for Florida to compete against teenage girls ages 16 – 19 from all over the country.  The winner of that competition lands $40,000 in scholarship money.

“Hopefully I can get that and help my mom out,” Hutchinson says.

Her mother works to support Chanelle. Her older brother, now 20, works. The family has Jamaican roots, but Chanelle’s mom was born in Gloucester, England.  Her grandparents then immigrated to New York City and finally settled in Chicago.  Chanelle’s lived in the Windy City for most of her life.

“Chicago is great,” she says. “Besides all the corruption and bipolar weather, Chicago is really nice.”

Raising Money for the Pageant
It hasn’t been easy, but Chanelle has almost hit her fundraising goal. She’s raised $430 out of the $495 required for her to participate. The pageant is funded in part by business owners who sponsor girls; the companies advertise while girls like Chanelle get the opportunity to participate in a beauty pageant. 

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There are two components to the competition. First, Chanelle faces another interview two days before the May 1 Pageant at the Olympic Theatre in Cicero.  She’s not sure what questions will be asked of her during the pre-pageant interview.

However, she does know what she’ll be doing the day of the pageant.  There are two modeling segments of the show – one casual, the other formal.

“I wanna wear a soccer outfit, with my cleats and everything,” Chanelle says, discussing her casual outfit.

And when she goes formal, she’ll model her dress for senior prom. That’s the next big event in her life, on June 4. She just needs to find a date.

“I guess I’ll just have to ask somebody I like – but I’m working on it, don’t worry,” she insists.

Chanelle Hutchinson has a mature sarcasm that’s refreshing to see in someone her age. Perhaps her personality will shine through at the beauty pageant next week and she wins over the judges, earning her a trip to Florida and a chance for serious scholarship money. And the title: Miss National. 

* Bob Spoerl is a young journalist based here in Chicago. He attends the Medill school of Journalism and interned for the WTTW news hour ‘Chicago Tonight.’ Before Medill, he earned a bachelor’s degree in English and Philosophy from Loyola, where he developed an affection for Rogers Park. Read his weekly contributions at

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