Bradley advances to state pageant

Published 12:30 am Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Wisconsin’s Laura Kaeppeler was recently crowned Miss America 2012, and young women across the country looked on, some with dreams to follow in her footsteps.

Among those aspiring beauty queens is Washington’s Taylor Bradley. A senior at Washington High School, Bradley tested the pageant waters last summer by entering the Miss Independence contest in Belhaven. She didn’t win, but she was the judges’ choice for the coveted most-talented award. Success there whetted her appetite, and, in September, she was crowned Teen Miss Princess of Johnston County in Benson.

Taylor Bradley, a senior at Washington High School, is the reigning Teen Miss Princess of Johnston County. She’ll compete at the state Princess of North Carolina scholarship pageant this summer. (WDN Photo/Kevin Scott Cutler)

The Johnston County competition is part of the Princess of North Carolina system, which hosts local pageants across the state. Bradley was eligible to compete for that title since PONC doesn’t hold a Beaufort County preliminary. The next step for her is the state pageant, slated for July in Goldsboro. After that, she plans to continue her quest, and she hopes to, eventually, be crowned Miss North Carolina and Miss America.

“I’ve been on stage all my life. … Pageants are fun,” said Bradley, the daughter of Susan Bradley and Scott Bradley of Washington. She’s the granddaughter of Melvin and Jerry Bradley of Chocowinity, Leonard Cooperman of Washington and Rita Stanaway of Ramseur.

Bradley said her pageant role models include Melissa Smith, a former Miss Independence and seasoned pageant contestant, and Leslie LaVictoire, a former Junior Miss titleholder and Miss North Carolina competitor on the local level.

There was a time in Bradley’s life when, as a youngster, she endured a painful injury that threatened her youthful appearance. On Jan. 13, 2003, the then-7-year-old was getting ready for school. She paused to play with the family dog, a Rottweiler named Hercules. Somehow, in the blink of an eye, her hair became entangled in her pet’s teeth. In a freak accident, Bradley’s scalp was detached and pulled back across her skull.

Bleeding profusely, she was rushed to the emergency room at the hospital in Washington. From there, she was transferred to Pitt County Memorial Hospital in Greenville, where she underwent a surgical procedure that lasted several hours and included a skin graft from her hip. Over the years, three more surgeries followed, with the most recent in December 2010. Each time, her scalp was pulled more tightly together until it is now impossible to spot any damage from the injury.

“It made me tougher,” Bradley said of the accident. “You just have to do what you have to do.”

The injury has also made her realize the importance of educating the public about Rottweilers, a breed of dog that is often misunderstood, she said.

“If you raise a dog in a gentle way, they’ll turn out to be gentle,” she insisted.

Hercules, who was bottle-fed as a puppy, remained a loving and loved part of the Bradley family for several years until his death.

Today, in addition to her school studies and pageant activities, Bradley is busy preparing for her role as Grace in WHS’s upcoming musical production of “Annie.” Performing is in her blood; last year she was Glenda the Good Witch in WHS’s “The Wizard of Oz,” and she’s a member of the school’s show choir. Bradley has been a dancer since she was 2 years old, studying under the tutelage of LeAnne Jones-Braly at Washington’s Dance Works and performing with the Center Stage Dance Company, the studio’s competition troupe.

During the holiday season, she was a fixture in local Christmas parades, wearing her sparkling crown and waving to the crowds while perched on the back of a convertible on loan from Lee Chevrolet. At Washington High School, Bradley has been a cheerleader for four years, currently serving as squad captain. She was named an All-American in cheerleading. She spends one hour every weekday as a teacher cadet at Eastern Elementary School. She is president of WHS’s Future Teachers of America chapter. When not busy at school, Bradley enjoys singing. She has represented Washington’s First Free Will Baptist Church in youth conferences on the district, state and national levels.

Bradley didn’t have to venture far from home when making a career choice. She plans to follow in her mother’s footsteps and become a teacher. To that end, she’s already been accepted to attend East Carolina University this fall.

Those pageant scholarships will come in handy, she said.