LaVictoire promotes Special Olympics

Published 1:00 am Wednesday, April 13, 2011

For one local woman aspiring to be Miss North Carolina, perhaps Miss America, life in the pageant spotlight means much more than beaded evening gowns and a sparkling crown.

Washington native Leslie LaVictoire is competing this weekend for a chance at becoming the next Miss North Carolina, all the while promoting her interest in Special Olympics. (WDN Photo/Kevin Scott Cutler)

Leslie LaVictoire, a 2007 graduate of Washington High School, is using her pageant platform to promote Special Olympics, a cause near and dear to her heart.

“I knew I could be passionate about cerebral palsy awareness,” said LaVictoire, referring to the condition that her 20-year-old brother, Perry, faces on a daily basis. “But Special Olympics encompasses so much and it’s been such a blessing to Perry.”

LaVictoire, 22 and a student at East Carolina University, has been dedicated to Special Olympics for much of her life, long before her involvement in pageants. The Miss America Organization requires its contestants ą whether on the local, state or national level ą to champion a cause.

Special Olympics was a natural fit for her, LaVictoire said.

“Perry has been involved since childhood, which means I got pulled out of school and I was involved with it, too,” she said.

LaVictoire will be by her brother’s side, encouraging him and cheering him on, as a “buddy” during Beaufort County’s Special Olympics games, scheduled for April 20 in Washington. She also was involved in the recent Pitt County Special Olympics, where she was “buddy” to a young girl participating in those games.

“The buddies, the volunteers, think they’re coming to help the athletes, but instead they’re the ones being inspired by the athletes,” LaVictoire shared.

During her pageant interviews with the judges, LaVictoire is often asked how she promotes her cause.

“I tell them that as Miss North Carolina I would tell the student volunteers that it is much more than just getting out of class for the day,” she said. “I tell them how awesome it is.”

The daughter of Dr. Robert LaVictoire of Washington and Catherine Good of Chocowinity, she began entering pageants as a teenager. She was twice a runner-up in Belhaven’s Miss Independence pageant and was chosen Tri-County’s Junior Miss. Representing Beaufort, Pamlico and Craven counties, she entered the North Carolina’s Junior Miss competition, earning a physical-fitness award.

Then she turned her attention to the Miss America scholarship program.

“Miss America is different from some of the other pageants. … It awards college scholarships, and it is very well respected,” LaVictoire said. “The girls are amazing role models and are well-rounded. It’s not just about being pretty.”

Since last fall, LaVictoire has entered three official Miss America local preliminary pageants, hoping to earn a spot in this summer’s Miss North Carolina scholarship pageant. Each time she narrowly missed taking home the crown, finishing as first runner-up to Miss Eastern Carolina, Miss Kinston-Lenoir and Miss Goldsboro.

LaVictoire has one more shot this pageant season; she’s one of 15 young women from across North Carolina participating in this weekend’s “sweeps pageant,” the last competition before the state pageant in late June.

“The sweeps pageant was designed to help two types of contestants: ladies who have competed during the year without winning a title, and ladies who may have given up their current title during the year without the opportunity to requalify to go back to the state pageant,” said Beth Knox, vice president of the Miss N.C. scholarship pageant and business manager for Miss North Carolina.

Three titles will be awarded this weekend: Miss Durham, Miss Raleigh and Miss Tarheel. The pageant is planned for Saturday beginning at 3 p.m. in the Raleigh Convention Center.

LaVictoire is polishing her act and appears confident as the pageant date nears. She plans to wear the same lucky swimsuit that helped her win the physical-fitness award during the Kinston-Lenoir pageant, and she has selected a new evening gown.

She’s most excited about her revamped talent presentation, a lyrical dance to the Jaci Velasquez tune “On My Knees.”

After the Miss Goldsboro pageant, LaVictoire turned to choreographer Lisa Mace, an accomplished dancer and former top-five finalist in the Miss North Carolina pageant.

“Lisa fixed my dance. … She helped me refine it and add some ‘ooomph’ to it,” LaVictoire said. “I love my dance now. I’m excited about it.”