Written by Devon Boen
Justiss Firemoon is motivated. That is one of the most noticeable qualities of the 18-year-old Miss Montana contestant.
Firemoon moved around a lot during her childhood and has lived in Poplar several different times throughout her life.
When asked what she did growing up, Firemoon immediately turned to education.
“I just really focused on school. I love school. My parents told me that education was the most important thing. When everyone was teasing me and calling me a nerd, I didn’t care. I knew school was really important,” Firemoon said.
Her focus on education paid off. Firemoon graduated from Poplar High School in January, a semester early.
“I wanted to graduate early so I could start working and saving up for college,” Firemoon said.
But most recently, she has put working on the backburner after she was encouraged to turn in an application for the 2013 Miss Montana Pageant. Firemoon had never done a pageant before, but she found out it offered a $5,000 college scholarship to the winner and couldn’t resist entering.
A few weeks later, Firemoon received her acceptance letter via email.
“I was waiting forever to hear and I screamed when I read it,” Firemoon said.
Since then, Firemoon has travelled to Billings for an informational forum and began preparing for the pageant.
“I’m learning a lot. We have to keep up on current events and learn a lot of etiquette and no carbs,” she laughed. “Usually, you have a coach, but there is nobody around here that does things like that, so it’s just me.”
Because of that, Firemoon has to enlist a lot of self-discipline. She, as well as the pageant judges, agreed she would have a more difficult road since her preparation was entirely in her hands.
To ease her fears, she reached out to current Miss Montana Alexis Weinman for counsel. Weinman told Firemoon she believed she was a good contestant for Miss Montana because she entered for all the right reasons.
She has just under two months to get ready. Pageant week precedes the June 15 crowning. Firemoon and all the other contestants will have to participate in a fashion show and parade, among other events.
During the actual competition, Firemoon will have to compete in the traditional evening gown and swimsuit competition as well as a talent competition. She said she’ll be singing a song from Phantom of the Opera. She’s been singing and performing since she was young and said that experience would help ease her nerves for the pageant.
She also had to choose a platform. Firemoon decided to focus on suicide prevention since it has been a serious and consistent problem on Native American reservations.
Firemoon will be competing against a lot of seasoned pageant participants, but she believes her background will give her an edge.
“I wasn’t exactly blessed with money. I didn’t get to wake up on my 16th birthday with a car in the driveway. I know how to work hard for whatever I need and I can relate to a lot of people because I didn’t start from the top,” Firemoon said.
If Firemoon is crowned Miss Montana, she’ll immediately move to Glendive, closer to the pageant headquarters, and start preparing for the Miss America pageant in September.
Firemoon talked about the goals she would pursue if she takes home the Miss Montana title in June.
“I want to inspire kids. No matter where you come from or what you’re doing, you have to stay focused on your education and work hard for anything you have,” Firemoon said. “Don’t listen to anybody that tries to bring you down.”