Tiffany Silva nearly lost her voice at age 5 when a tumor called a hemangioma was removed from her neck. Eight years later, she hopes that voice will lead her to fame.

On Aug. 18-19, the Galloway Township resident will travel to East Brunswick to take part in the New Jersey Junior Teen division of the National American Miss pageant.

For Tiffany, who dreams of being a recording artist, the competition represents a tremendous opportunity.

"It could open a lot of doors for me, in singing and acting and talents," the 13-year-old said.

Tiffany was contacted by the organization in June and told that she had been referred to them. Just a few weeks later, she aced her audition at the Sheraton in Atlantic City and was told she had advanced to the state competition.

Pageant entrants are scored on formal wear, a personal introduction and an interview, each of which makes up 30 percent of the final score, and on community involvement, which makes up the remaining 10 percent.

Tiffany also will take part in the talent competition, which is separate from the main pageant, singing "I Dreamed a Dream" from the musical "Les Miserables."

She has been gearing up for her performance by traveling to area open mic nights, and is a regular at the Malelani Cafe in Ventnor on Thursday nights and Kingpin Lanes in Egg Harbor Township on Tuesdays.

While she has performed in front of audiences in school and community theater, she said the open mic nights have been valuable in getting her psyched for the competition.

"I'm a little nervous, singing in front of a lot of people, but doing these open mic nights is kind of calming my nerves," Tiffany said. "I'm not as nervous as I was before."

In her few weeks of taking part in the open mics, Tiffany has gained a few fans, including Joey McGowan, who hosts the event at Malelani.

Himself a performer and an avowed music nut, McGowan said Tiffany's talent is impressive not just for her age, but in general.

"Incredible voice," McGowan said. "I mean, it's one of the best voices I've heard in decades."

Tiffany has just a few weeks left to get herself ready for the pageant. She will face some stiff competition, making victory far from a foregone conclusion.

Regardless of whether she wins the competition, it will be good experience on her way to achieving her dream of stardom, which her father, Phil, believes is in reach.

"I think she has a chance, if she really wants it and she puts 100 percent in," Silva said. "She has a chance to make it."

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