Pageant contestants seek crown

Published 12:58 am Friday, June 25, 2010

Lifestyles & Features Editor

Lifestyles &Features Editor
BELHAVEN — Sounding more like a drill sergeant than a former beauty pageant queen, Brandy Lee Grimes gives instructions to a group of young women, each woman hoping to snag her own shiny crown next weekend.
Grimes, director of the Miss Independence pageant, laughs as she good-naturedly shows a beauty queen aspirant the proper way to exit the stage following the show’s opening number.
Rehearsals are under way for the pageant, as much of a July 4 tradition in Belhaven as fireworks and the parade.
“I know they’ve been doing the Miss Independence pageant for over 50 years,” said Grimes, a runner-up in the contest about 10 years ago.
Eleven contestants are vying for this year’s title. The pageant doesn’t accept just anyone; contestants must have at least an overall “B” average in school and be no younger than 15 and or older than 18. They must reside in Beaufort, Hyde or Washington counties, and they must be single, Grimes said.
In it to win it are Jordan Cooke, Allison Armstrong, Victoria Robbins, Kayla Paul, Megan White, Jennifer Woolard, Elizabeth Harris, Janel Robinson, Sydney Colbert, Kaitlyn Banks and Alexis Peed. All are Beaufort County residents, and several local schools are represented in the lineup, including Northside High School, Pungo Christian Academy, Washington High School, Terra Ceia Christian School and Southside High School.
There’s much more to pageants than a pretty face and looking good in a bathing suit, Grimes said. She should know. Not only has she served as director of the Miss Independence pageant for six years, she has been a contestant in similar pageants over the years.
“I think pageants instill direction in life and how to manage time,” said Grimes. “Life is always a competition. It’s not about whether you win or lose, but what you take from the pageant that you will use for the rest of your life.”
As is tradition with the selection of Miss Independence, this year’s contestants will be judged in evening-gown, swimsuit and private-interview categories. There’s an optional talent category; the five or six contestants planning to compete in talent will offer vocal, dance and violin performances in hopes of capturing an award separate from the Miss Independence title.
This year there’s a new twist — Grimes and pageant co-director Melissa Smith have added what they’re calling the “creative expression” category, which accounts for 30 percent of each contestant’s overall score. It’s a sort of costume competition, with each contestant expressing her individuality.
“To me, that gives them a chance to promote something that has influenced their life to date, or something that they want to do in life,” Grimes said.
The new Miss Independence receives a $1,000 college scholarship. Also up for grabs are savings bonds donated by Grimes, Smith, Vital Communications, Babe’s Florist, Beaufort County Pageant Committee and Wilson, Jones &Co. Those prizes will be awarded to the runners-up, talent winner, Miss Congeniality and Miss Photogenic.
The Miss Independence pageant begins at 7 p.m. July 2 at the Wilkinson Center in Belhaven. Admission is $7 a person. Pageant-goers will receive souvenir programs with photographs of each contestant.
For more information about next weekend’s festivities in Belhaven, call 252-943-3770.