Andalusia native crowned USA National Miss Junior Teen; mother named state director for USA National Miss

Published 11:00 am Saturday, August 5, 2023

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A family with Andalusia ties has found success in the world of pageantry with a mother being named the state director for USA National Miss and her daughter winning this year’s teen category.

Shannon Spears Cook first became involved with pageants as a young girl growing up in Andalusia.

“A lot of my friends and I did school pageants, so Caroline wanted to be in one. It was then we started looking for one in our hometown of Alabaster. We found a charity pageant called the Heart of Alabaster, which supports cancer research, and joined that when she was 7 years old. She ended up winning and going on to the national level, which is something I had never done. We are very excited for her,” Shannon said.

For Shannon, this was her first time directing a pageant of any kind. The family has called Alabaster home for the last 10 years

“It has definitely come full circle. We have traveled for the past six years, and she even held an international title with another system. Bringing home this title of USA National Miss Junior Teen is nice, and we love the organization. Caroline’s goal is to break the pageant stereotype. It is so much more than makeup and gowns. She has traveled all over the country and even interviewed with Miss USA. These are life skills she will carry forward with these experiences. She has a platform where she supports veterans and even has her own podcast. It is through all of this she has grown her confidence through pageantry,” she added.

Caroline Cook was crowned USA National Miss Junior Teen this summer at the national competition in Hollywood, Florida where she competed alongside state representatives from across the country. Her mother directed this year’s state preliminary competition. She is married to Alan Cook, also formerly of Andalusia.

“We have competed in this pageant for about three years. In the past, I have gotten first and also competed in other divisions. I was prepared and did not really have any high expectations going into it because I was the youngest and competed against girls two years older. Every time I kept advancing, it was very surprising and exciting, but I did not expect to win. When I won, it was shocking and like a blur,” Caroline said.

She first began competing in pageants when she was 7 years old. For Caroline, preparation for the USA National Miss competition was years in the making.

“I have tried three times to receive a UNM title. I took all of my past practice and put it into what I did at nationals. I did my personal best and would have been happy no matter what the outcome was.”

Caroline is a rising eighth grader at Thompson Middle School. Her favorite part about competing was the sisterhood she formed with other contestants.

“A lot of people don’t understand this or only see what is on TV, but you actually make lifelong friendships. I still have some of those bonds from my first pageant to this day and am so thankful for that. With the girls I meet through pageantry, I think I have met someone from every state,” she said.

For her title this year, Caroline received $10,000 cash, an all-expenses paid cruise to The Bahamas, and a three-year modeling contract walking for designers in New York Fashion Week, along with additional trips and prizes. She will also crown the next USA National Miss Junior Teen in Orlando in the summer of 2024.

Shannon said they usually compete in Chattanooga, Tennessee, because there had not been enough participation in Alabama. It was then that she volunteered to become a director for Alabama.

“We are so excited to do this together and we’re going to make it our thing. Pageant moms are kind of like dance moms in that we get to have that bond with our daughters. We get to spend that time with them playing dress-up and seeing them in the spotlight. It’s such an experience,” she said.

Caroline is the daughter of Alan and Shannon Cook and the granddaughter of Paul Sr. and Denille Spears of Andalusia. Her brother John Stoneback is an officer with the Andalusia Police Department. Her aunt and uncle are Paul Jr. and Kiley Spears of Andalusia.

The 2024 state preliminary pageant, which is open to all residents of Alabama, will be held Jan. 20-21, at the Thompson High School Performing Arts Center in Alabaster. A “sweetheart division” will also be held for girls who are unable to travel or just want to see what the world of pageantry is like.

“They will get a good glimpse of what the system is all about. Some people cannot compete for a state title because they may have already won one, but they can come and compete in the sweetheart division. It will be an opportunity for them to practice. We are excited and want to bring it back to our hometown of Andalusia one day. If Caroline can do it, anybody with that desire can do it,” Shannon said.

For more information about the state’s preliminary competition or scheduling an appearance by Caroline, email Shannon at

About USA National Miss
USA National Miss (UNM) is an award-winning national pageant organization that exists to enrich the lives of young women through an unsurpassed pageant experience. Mentoring young women to reach their goals, gain confidence and life skills, and unleash their full leadership potential, UNM is changing the lives of young women all across America. Awarding a prize package over $150,000 per national winner and over $60,000 in cash scholarships yearly to further their education and career goals, young women are equipped with extraordinary experiences that create opportunities for success and growth. Alabama offers one of the highest quality pageant programs in the country and is consistently recognized as an industry leader. Under the leadership of a four-time award winning national director, Jackie B. Watson and Kayla W. Trubey, and newly appointed state director, Shannon Cook, USA National Miss has become one of the largest and most prestigious national pageant systems in the country.