Sisters Tatiana and Andrea Lopez are just 5 and 4 years old respectively, but they are already learning how to be all they can be, thanks to their Army veteran mother Jade Lopez.

Both girls will compete in the same age division in the state finals of the National American Miss Princess Division Pageant for New Jersey. They will be vying against other 4-, 5- and 6-year-olds for a shot to go to the nationals in November.

The pageant will be held in New Brunswick at the Hyatt Regency this weekend.

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Lopez, of Pleasantville, said she wants her daughters to grow up feeling empowered and comfortable with themselves, and she believes the pageant will give them a positive experience to draw from.

"I want them to have confidence in themselves and in whatever they want to do in life. Those are important qualities I want my children to learn," said Lopez, 26.

Entering her daughters in a pageant was not something Lopez sought, especially to compete at the same time. When Tatiana got a reference to enter the pageant, the family decided to go to the casting call to see what would become of it. While there they discovered that Andrea was just as into it as her sister. When the interview panel asked Lopez if she would consider entering Andrea as well, she thought, why not?

"As long as she was eager to try, I didn't want to hold her back," said Lopez, who added that the whole purpose of entering her daughters is to give them confidence and build skills.

Like most sisters, the girls can be competitive with each other. They are both enrolled in tumbling and gymnastic classes and also take dance lessons.

The competition will involve participants going before judges and answering various questions. National American Miss Princess has a no-makeup policy and stresses the positives values of "being a real girl," said Lopez, who has been out of the service about two years now.

"The way they look is not what I put emphasis on, and it's not what the pageant puts emphasis on," she said. "That's why I'm willing to let them do this."

The sisters are being sponsored in the pageant by Turnovers, LLC, a baby shop that offers an all-naturally-made line of clothing for infants and youngsters. The owner, Rhapsody Hahn, is a longtime friend of Lopez and said she is more than happy to support the girls and supply their outfits.

Lopez said her daughters are excited about the idea of dressing up and being on stage. She hopes they do well, but the important part is they have fun she said.

"I'm looking forward to it too, because I see how excited they are getting," she said. "But I don't have any expectations about it. I just want to give them the experience."

Regardless of the outcome, she said the family will celebrate the girls' participation and be glad that they got a memorable experience.

Contact Lucia C. Drake:

609-272-7295

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