Mona Hibbard (MINNIE DRIVER) is a young and ambitious, but self-centered woman who's spent her entire life trying to be someone through winning various beauty pageants. Although her mother, Nedra (LINDA HART) and her man friend, Lurdy (BRENT BRISCOE), didn't support Mona when she was a teen, she did receive help and encouragement from Verna Chickle (KATHLEEN TURNER), a former beauty queen and local talent trainer.
Now the latest Miss Illinois, Mona is poised to enter the Miss American Miss beauty pageant. With the help of her best friend, Ruby (JOEY LAUREN ADAMS), whose young and feisty daughter, Vanessa (HALLIE KATE EISENBERG), is decidedly less enthusiastic about the whole matter, Mona sets out to win the crown. Several obstacles stand in her way, however, including Joyce Parkins (LESLIE STEFANSON), a onetime competitor and current TV reporter who's determined to ruin Mona's life.
Of course, there are the other contestants, including Lorna, Miss Texas (BRIDGETTE WILSON) and Wanda Love, Miss Tennessee (KATHLEEN ROBERTSON), but Mona is more concerned about getting good PR and her mother's support. When she ends up having to take care of Vanessa for an extended time as the pageant begins, however, Mona finds herself facing the biggest choices and challenges of her life.