This Book Should Not Be Judged By Its Cover: What Miss Louisiana USA Taught Me About Beauty Pageants

by Taylor Pittman, mentored by Janice McDonald

When you walk backstage of any pageant, your senses will immediately kick in. The smell of Paul Mitchell hairspray and burning flat irons flow through the air, you can hear the coordinator of the pageant yelling each girl’s title to get on stage, and you can feel the anxiety and stress in the air. But all that is upstaged by the taste and confidence of these beautiful young women.

Saturday, I walked into the Jefferson Parish Performing Arts Center expecting to see a bunch of shallow girls with hearts that were impure and focused on winning a crown with no value. That was, until I actually stepped backstage and found myself amongst 26 beautiful girls lining up to be pampered and told their places. As I met with my amazing mentor Janice McDonald, the productions and operations manager, I was introduced to at least 3 contenders and they were all in full pageant makeup. One of the contestants, DeAudrea Horne, Miss Vieux Carre, stops me in my tracks and says, “Whatever you’re doing back here, I know you are going to do an amazing job because I can see it in your face.”

You would never understand the struggle of each job behind the stage including the makeup artist, the operations manager, and even the chaperones. The makeup artist literally surrounds each contestant and follows them until their time to take the stage. The operations manager for the night, Ms. Janice McDonald yelled from the time the girls arrived at the center until they got off of the stage. She always made sure to support the girls and adjust any outfit changes that they needed to have. Her family works with her in most events that she manages. Her sister was handing out programs and did the training for the girls for the pageant, and her niece did all of the photography for the event. Each one of the assistants had different ways to assist each one the managers, including the two men helping the girls down from the stage.

These women compete to win over 10,000 dollars worth of scholarships and 5,000 in cash prizes. Miss Louisiana will move on to the Miss USA pageant and then finally compete for chance to be in Miss Universe. They deserve much more respect than they receive, because you encounter negative opinions on pageants ranging from an empty contest to downright exploitation. These ladies are the complete opposite; they are full of beautiful back-stories, well-mannered, and have brilliant minds. For example, when Horne spoke to me in person you could tell her nerves were a little bothered but she was focused like a lion seeking her prey. Horne is an Ice Skeleton, which is a winter sliding sport in which a person rides a small sled, known as a skeleton bobsled, down a frozen track while lying face down and head-first. She is planning to be in the Olympics in 2020. Her story was so real that she even won the award for being the most relatable (Miss Congeniality). The smiles and the beautiful gowns are only half of the show because each and everyone of these girls are beautiful individuals who have amazing stories.

For a person like me who was not interested in pageantry, this surprised me as being one of the most inspiring events that I have ever been to. The results impressed me and I believed the judges chose the right person for each award. Miss Louisiana 2019 is Victoria Paul representing Lafayette. The runner ups included: Tanya Crowe from New Orleans as first runner up, DeAudrea Horne from Vieux Carre as second runner up, Anna Kirksey from West Monroe as third runner up, and Alyssa Bradley from NOLA as fourth runner up. All of the special awards and the rest of the rankings can be found here. Because Miss Victoria Paul took home the state crown by participating in the categories of evening gown, interview, and swimwear she will not only have a year full of philanthropic and professional opportunities, but she will also be one of the 50 States competing on a televised stage.