Search under way for Peed’s successor

Published 1:00 am Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Lexi Peed, a senior at Washington High School, is the reigning Miss Independence. Applications are being accepted for this year’s pageant, held as part of Belhaven’s July 4 festivities. (File Photos/Kevin Scott Cutler)

Peed belts out a country song during last summer’s Miss Independence Pageant in Belhaven. (WDN File Photos/Kevin Scott Cutler)

Last summer, a Washington teenager was crowned Miss Independence, and now the search to find her successor is under way.

Applications are being accepted for the 2011 Miss Independence Pageant, a highlight of Belhaven’s traditional July 4 festivities.

“I was excited. I was shocked,” said Peed of her pageant win.

Along with bringing home the Miss Independence crown, she walked away with the photogenic, talent and congeniality awards.

Not bad for a pageant novice. The Belhaven pageant was only the second such competition she had entered; a few months earlier, she was named second runner-up in the Miss Beaufort County/Miss Summer Festival Pageant, a fundraiser for the Turnage Theater.

“I kind of felt bad that I won so many awards at Miss Independence,” she said during a recent interview. “There were so many great girls there.”

Bitten by the “pageant bug,” Peed entered the Princess of the Crystal Coast Pageant, an official preliminary to the statewide Princess of North Carolina competition. She didn’t win that one, but she came close, finishing as first runner-up. She also came away with a new friend, who will be her roommate at East Carolina University next year.

“Makenzie Williams of Greenville won the Overall Supreme Princess title, and we’ve become good friends,” Peed said. “We’ll probably do pageants together.”

In pageant competition, Peed said her least-favorite category involves modeling a swimsuit on stage; her favorite, she said, is the personal interview with the judges.

The Miss Independence Pageant features four mandatory areas of competition: swimsuit, interview, evening gown and creative expression. There also is an optional talent category. Peed, who enjoys singing, was one of several contestants in last year’s pageant who opted to perform an on-stage talent. She belted out a country song, Sugarland’s “Settlin’.”

“That was the first time I got up and sang in front of an audience,” she said with a note of pride in her voice.

A Washington native, Peed is the daughter of Rickey and Kristen Peed. She has two younger brothers č Evan, 13, and Wilson, 9 č and her family is her own built-in cheering section at pageants.

They just may have the opportunity to cheer her on again, since she’s considering entering other pageants in the future, including a local preliminary competition in the Miss America system. But she knows she’ll have to juggle pageants with a demanding college schedule.

“I’m planning to study nursing and then become a nurse-practitioner,” said Peed, who will celebrate her 18th birthday in May. “In my last semester of high school, I’m taking the certified nurse-assistant course,” a prerequisite for ECU’s nursing program. Taking the course now, frees her up from having to attend summer school, she added.

In the meantime, Peed is recruiting contestants for this year’s Miss Independence title, and she’s offering them a little advice.

“Don’t go into it nervous about the different things you have to do,” she said. “Just do it to meet new people and to have fun.”

As Miss Independence, Peed has appeared as a local celebrity in parades in Bath and Belhaven. She also volunteered with a telethon raising money for cystic fibrosis. And, along with pageant buddies Williams and Ashley Clayton, herself a former Miss Independence, Peed plans to make Easter baskets and distribute them to╩young patients at Pitt County Memorial Hospital.

Before venturing into the pageant field, Peed was more comfortable on the soccer field, where she played for th