This summer, the Miss Delaware Scholarship Organization, a preliminary competition of the Miss America Scholarship Organization, crowned its new winner Rebecca Jackson.
Jackson will vie for the big—and sparkly—Miss America crown at 9 p.m., Sunday, Sept. 15 on ABC. Miss Hockessin Executive Director Shawna Wainright is hoping that lots of local women will be watching and find themselves inspired to compete in a competition that stresses talent, communication skills, education and public service.
"So many young ladies don't have the opportunities for the scholarships that are available through the Miss America Organization programs," Wainright explained. "It's a program that supports college education, the arts and the Children's Miracle Network, the organization's official national platform."
She uses the word "program" quite a bit and will gently correct anybody that keeps referring to it as a "pageant."
"Program is preferred over pageant because the competition is so much more than the beauty contests of other organizations," Wainright said. "Our girls have to be driven to succeed, be invested in their education, have talent and be able to hold their own in interviews, which is a big part of the competition."
Wainright, who has been involved in the pageant community for more than 20 years, is actually responsible for bringing the Miss Hockessin Scholarship Pageant back after several years of nonexistence. She re-established the program in February of this year, crowning a new title holder: Brittany Lewis.
MISS HOCKESSIN 2013
Lewis, a Pennsylvania transplant who now refers to Wilmington as "my community," didn't grow up competing in pageants. Miss Hockessin was only her fourth pageant but she seems to have a knack for it. After winning Miss Greater Reading, she went on to become the second runner up in Miss Pennsylvania. In Miss Delaware, she was the third runner up.
Despite the "big" titles being slightly out of her grasp so far, she said that she doesn't think any girl could go wrong with the Miss America Organization. But, she also thinks that newcomers should really consider starting with Miss Hockessin.
"If I was going to be candid with a girl who was considering a pageant for the first time, I would tell her to do Hockessin," Lewis said. "Her prize package is amazing and Shawna [Wainright] will dedicate herself to helping you succeed. You can't go wrong with Shawna."
Lewis went on to explain that her prizes for Miss Hockessin totaled more than $4,000 in scholarship money and prizes, from clothing awards and gym memberships to a cash award from Wilmington University, the program's scholarship sponsor.
Page 2 of 2 - She also said that the competition is also great for girls who are passionate about a cause, known in pageant circles as a girl's platform. Each girl will have the opportunity to pick a platform that she feels personally affected by. Lewis picked domestic violence.
"My sister died in March 2010 as a result of domestic violence. It was literally crippling," she said. "But, I have found that I can talk about it and make a difference before it becomes fatal for other families."
COST TO COMPETE
There's an old adage that you have to spend money to make money but Lewis said that pageants, at least Miss America pageants, don't have to be cost prohibitive.
"To be frank, it wasn't costly for me," Lewis said. "I've been dancing for years so I had costumes to choose from. I didn't have an evening gown but I still had my prom dress so I used that."
She added that for the swimsuit competition, a girl could use just about any suit other than a string bikini. She also said that as a girl advances, the cost gets greater but so do the sponsorship opportunities, which lessen the burden of competing at a higher level.
So, what does a girl need to do or have to compete? First, she must be living, working or attending school in Delaware for at least six months prior to the program. At a minimum, she must be a 17-year-old senior in high school. However, she can be no older than 23 years old and must be unmarried or non-divorced. The Miss America Organization also sets forth character requirements and girls should consider that a crown is a time commitment after the pageant as well, with appearances and speaking obligations. Since winning her title in February, Lewis has made 20 appearances and several more are scheduled for the remainder of her reign.
"Shawna is great about creating opportunities for me to speak about my platform," Lewis said.
A complete list of requirements can be obtained directly from Wainright by emailing her by Tuesday, Oct. 8 at firstname.lastname@example.org.
MORE THAN A CROWN
Win or lose, Lewis reiterated that she has not experienced a downside to competing.
"There's so much professional development that any girl can prosper from the skills fostered through this program," Lewis said. "But, the sense of sisterhood is what has stuck with me. Some of the girls I have met in pageants have become my best friends. I wouldn't trade that for anything."