PEABODY, Mass. (AP) — For Julia Scaparotti, being a beauty queen is about more than looking pretty.

"We are athletes. We train physically and mentally," said Scaparotti, who was awarded the title of Miss Massachusetts 2017 on Nov. 20.

This wasn't Scaparotti's first time competing for the state title, but she knew from her first pageant that it was something she wanted to pursue.

"I just fell in love with it," she said. "(Last) weekend, I've never felt more confident."

In addition to cheerleading for the New England Patriots and working at an advertising agency in Boston, Scaparotti, a 2009 graduate of Peabody Veterans Memorial High School, prepared for the competition by getting up at 4:30 a.m. for workout training.

She also made an effort to get out into the community whenever possible, volunteering for causes such as the Miss Pink Pageant, which highlights the stories of breast cancer survivors.

Her Miss Massachusetts gown was bought locally, at Bella Sera Bridal & Occasion in Danvers.

Although she took a short break to celebrate with family in the city for Thanksgiving, Scaparotti is already beginning to prepare for the national Miss USA competition with photo shoots and radio interviews on the horizon.

For anyone who thinks that pageants are a waste of time, Scaparotti begs to differ.

"They don't know, they've never met a pageant girl before. Every woman I've competed against has inspired me. And the friendships. I've been to the weddings of two women I've met at pageants," she said.

Miss Massachusetts also had some advice for anyone who wants to enter a pageant.

"Just go for it. It's really hard to put yourself out there, but then you get so excited."

She suggested doing research by watching pageants and even hiring a coach to learn insider tricks.

Staying organized is also important.

"I wouldn't have been able to do it without the support that I had," said Scaparotti. "Friends I've had from middle school were there last weekend. Standing on stage and hearing them cheer meant so much."

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Information from: The (Lynn, Mass.) Daily Item, http://itemlive.com