Saturday, December 30, 2006

Best of Luck to the Miss Southeastern Ohio Pageant Tonight!

Tonight in Zanesville the Miss Southeaster Ohio Scholarship Pageant will take place. Note, however, this pageant is no longer an official affiliate of the Miss Ohio scholarship Program… however; the winner may still compete there this summer. Confusing? Certainly. Controversial? A tad, depending who you talk to… But never mind all that for now, the important part is that a beautiful, accomplished woman is giving up a title and twenty other women are vying for over $20,000 in scholarships and prizes!

*First Things First...

Last year the Miss SEO program was resurrected and Jenna Wilson won the title and several other awards. I was in attendance that night [left] and Jenna and I ended up being roommates in Mansfield at Miss Ohio this past July. I cannot begin to say enough about Jenna! She is sweet, humble, fun and determined. I have met a lot of women in the Miss America organization who are committed to their platform; like many, Jenna’s comes from a very personal place, yet she manages not to make it an annoying sob story. Upon birth, Jenna fought for her life and now helps at-risk babies, like she was, by working with the March of Dimes. She is a talented vocalist who recorded a CD to raise funds and awareness for her cause. [Right: we’re in our Sunday parade best at Miss Ohio.] People in pageantland throw this phrase around a lot, but I was truly surprised when she didn’t make the Top 10. I bring it up only to say she handled the disappointment with tremendous grace and dignity, a feat that is beyond difficult, trust me, I know.
Jenna and I also competed together in September at Miss Ohio USA. I had a great backstage picture of us together, which I now cannot find in the vaults of my computer.

*The Contestants

Twenty women from the southeastern Ohio area are vying for Jenna’s title. While I’m sure this is the first pageant for some, others competed last year and a few names may ring a bell from other Miss Ohio locals- Courtney Wallace, Karissa Martin and Kara Roberts.
CLICK HERE to view all the contestant’s photos and information.

Contestants are judged in five areas of competition:
Interview: 30%
Talent: 20%
Commitment to Community Service: 20%

Health & Fitness: 15%
Evening Wear: 15%

*Pageant Press

Click on the following headlines from the Zanesville Times Recorder to read the stories:

Miss SEO Contestants Prepare for Pageant

*Confusing Point #1- How might the winner of a non-franchised pageant go to Miss Ohio?

As I said above, Miss SEO is no longer an official local to Miss Ohio. Rather, it is an independent scholarship program to strengthen the community and help local women. On the official website, pageant director Vicki LeVeck states, “As a community, Zanesville-Muskingum County is committed to encouraging young people to advance their education, to obtain personal and humanitarian goals, and to improve the lives of others while maintaining their own sense of style and character.” In my area of the state similar pageants are the Van Wert Peony Pageant, Napoleon Tomato Queen, St. Mary’s Summer Fest Queen, etc… I’m sure independent community pageants like this exist everywhere.

The winner of Miss SEO could still compete at Miss Ohio under three different circumstances:

A. To increase the number of participants at Miss State the Miss America system has revised its rules to include independent title holders, such as fair and festival queens and representatives of colleges and university. (I currently can’t find the letter which was sent down from the national level about this, so please email it to me if you have it.) A Miss SEO contestant told me that her understanding is if the new Miss SEO wants to compete at Miss Ohio she can submit paperwork to the Miss Ohio board. The Board will review the potential contestant and decide whether or not to accept her as a state contestant.

B. Next, the Miss Ohio contract states that a titleholder may not hold simultaneous titles which both advance to a state, national or international level. Titles often overlap, but the key is that the contestant has completed her obligation to compete at the next level. For example, several local titleholders competed at Miss Ohio USA this fall; we were all “cleared” by our local directors because we had already competed at Miss Ohio (America). This is relevant because one of the Miss SEO contestants already holds a local title, with which she’ll compete at Miss Ohio this summer. Many have wondered, is she allowed to hold both titles, and if she already has a crown to Miss Ohio, why is she competing at Miss SEO?

I pride myself on using this blog in a positive way, so to end the gossip and speculation, I went to reliable sources, and here are the facts- Karissa Martin, Miss Scioto Valley, has received permission from the Miss Ohio board to compete in Miss SEO because Miss SEO does not automatically advance to any other pageant. By competing, she is making herself eligible for valuable scholarships and prizes, as well as gaining invaluable practice for Miss Ohio. If she wins, her commitment as Miss SEO will only be local, and she’ll likely be given even greater opportunities to work with her platform, while her preparation for Miss Ohio and her duties as Miss SV will come first.

Okay, just to play out all the options… If Karissa Martin does not win, and if the winner does not go to Miss Ohio as Miss SEO, that woman would be able to continue competing in Miss Ohio locals in the spring. This might happen if the Miss Ohio board for some reason does not approve the new Miss SEO. Or, if the new Miss SEO is extremely confident and wants to try other locals in hopes of even more scholarship money.

*Confusing Point #2- Why isn’t Miss SEO an official local anymore?

PLEASE NOTE- “Confusing Point #1” was based on information from very reliable sources; however, the following is hearsay and my personal opinions.

Last year, Miss SEO was seemingly everything a local pageant should be. The pageant gave out tremendous scholarships, had twenty contestants, a beautiful auditorium nearly sold out, and the hosts were Miss America 2000, Heather French and Johnny Parrazzo, emcee to multiple state programs. As Jenna Wilson’s Miss Ohio roommate, I know that she was given amazing support, preparation and weekly appearances! This sounds like a model, and rarely a reality; thus, the organization was featured in Four Points Magazine.

Why, oh why, then would the Miss Southeastern Ohio's franchise as a Miss Ohio local NOT be renewed?

Pageant director Vicki LeVeck issued the following:

Last year, the Miss Southeastern Ohio program was resurrected after a six-year hiatus. At that point, the new director of the program, Vicki LeVeck, made the choice to affiliate the Miss SEO program with the Miss America Organization by acquiring an official Miss America Local Preliminary Franchise. In 2007, Miss SEO will operate independently.

“This gives us the freedom to place greater focus on the contestants and their involvement in community service, higher education, and the performing arts,” stated Executive Director, Vicki LeVeck. “While we will not be affiliated with the Miss Ohio/Miss America Organization this year, we will continue to provide an opportunity for young women in the Southeastern Ohio area to earn much needed and well-deserved scholarship dollars; to showcase their performing talent; to hone their public speaking and interview skills; and to develop personally and professionally overall.”

Miss SEO will still be open to young women ages 17 to 24 pursuing higher education. Last year, the program was limited to contestants who attended school or resided in one of the following counties: Muskingum, Belmont, Perry, Hocking, Coshocton, Noble, Morgan, Athens, Guernsey, Monroe, Washington, and Meigs. This coming year, in addition to those counties, Miss SEO will also be open to: Licking, Fairfield, Vinton, and Athens counties.

“This provides a better representation of Southeastern Ohio, and from a tourism standpoint, it will be to our economic advantage to draw people from each of these counties to downtown Zanesville for a series of events,” LeVeck explained. “Which brings me to another point and another improvement. The Miss SEO program will host not just a pageant, but also a series of events that will make up the Miss SEO experience.”

In addition to a staged pageant with areas of competition in talent and interview, the new Miss SEO program will more greatly emphasize community service and the celebration of women and beauty. The contestants will also have an opportunity to attend a series of professional development workshops.
CLICK HERE to read the entire press release.

I’ve heard it had something to do with the fact that Miss SEO held a teen pageant as a fundraiser; because Miss America now has an official teen program, SEO’s independent teen pageant may have been some sort of conflict of interest.

Another theory is that Miss SEO was simply too good; some may feel that it made the state program look bad.

I suppose if I were still a titleholder I would approach the topic more gingerly, but as I’m not, and as a friend of Jenna, I think it is ridiculous that such an outstanding local is no longer an official part of Miss Ohio.

*Final Thoughts

Best of luck to Jenna, all the contestants and the Miss Southeastern Ohio program tonight. I wish I could attend, to see Jenna and hear the contestant who’s singing my old talent song… but with the holidays, I’ve been doing too much driving lately…

While I don’t agree with the new rule which allows non-official local pageant winners to participate at Miss State (more about that once I find a copy of the letter), I also disagree with Miss SEO’s removal as a Miss Ohio franchise… so whoever the winner tonight, I hope she is at Miss Ohio one way or another!

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