I feel so blessed to be able to be part of one of the most wonderful and uplifting experiences recently, the Warren County’s Miss Lovely Pageant. The event is designed for girls and young women ages 7-23 with special needs. In my 25 years at the newspaper I have covered many, many such events, but none have been as impactful as this one. Many of us said it was a roller coaster of emotions, smiling and laughing one minute, and drying our eyes the next. We did this, not because we were sad, but because we were so proud of the girls and excited for them.
It gave me and the other volunteers a great feeling to see these young ladies feel special, important and most of all beautiful as they were presented to the audience of supporters. Pageants sometimes receive a bad rap, but this one was presented with the utmost love and respect. Miss Lovely was under the direction of Brandie and Lauren Mansfield, who experienced a similar pageant in Chicago. They brought together a large group of teachers and volunteers to make the experience special and to provide assistance.
It was very enlightening and rewarding to be able to interact with so many of our special education teachers. I told one dedicated teacher I had a greater respect and understanding for her chosen vocation. These teachers face so many challenges daily, striving to give individual attention to their students.
Miss Lovely contestants were treated to a meet and greet/rehearsal the night before, where the bonding experience began. Several area titleholders made a special effort to be at the meet and greet to encourage the contestants, have photos made and sign autographs for them.
Contestants competed in a 10-minute interview with the judges, an on-stage introduction, and a beauty walk. A talent category was optional, but most of the girls said this was their favorite part. Some sang, did karate, presented cheers, with one creative girl sharing her impersonation of a cat.
A glam squad of hairdressers, make-up artists and nail technicians donated their services to the girls if desired. Evening gowns and shoes were also acquired for the contestants if needed. Many, many giving and sharing folks came together to make it work. Area businesses also got on board, donating everything needed to put on a top-notch show, from flowers to gift items and crowns for the girls.
I truly hope the Miss Lovely Pageant becomes a yearly tradition, and we are able to get everyone involved. This is a perfect example of our wonderful community coming together to show compassion to the girls and their families.