Ear-to-ear smiles adorned the faces of primped and poised women as they strutted across the stage in dresses fit for a Hollywood red carpet event.But this wasn’t a movie premiere, and these weren’t famous actresses whose names are household words.
At least, not yet. These women were the candidates in last year’s Miss West Chester University pageant, and this year 17 more women will compete for the title of Miss WCU. On Jan. 31 at 8 p.m. the current Miss WCU, Rachel Brooks, will crown her successor in the Emilie K. Asplundh Concert Hall in Philips Memorial Building.
The Miss WCU pageant began in 1998 as a Killinger Hall activity organized by Michael Hartman, who is now a WCU graduate. The pageant’s popularity grew and by 2001 it was a campus wide program.
“[It] brings together different members of the University community and bonds them in a unique experience,” said Hartman, who will serve as Co-Executive Director along with Chris Perez for this year’s pageant.
“The proceeds of the event are donated to various community service platforms and the organization provides scholarships to the winners of a variety [of] awards,” Hartman continued.
Each contestant will represent a platform, and if chosen as Miss WCU 2004, she will work closely with the organization throughout her yearlong reign.
“It provides the participants an opportunity to share their talents and express their views on a subject they feel very dedicated to,” Hartman said.
Such platforms range from Breast Cancer Awareness to AIDS Awareness. Brooks chose to work with “Rock and Rap The Vote,” which “helps bring the importance of participating in the electoral process to our community,” according to a Miss WCU Organization press release.
“Rachel Brooks has been an outstanding example of what our program is all about,” said Hartman. “She took this opportunity and ran with it making it a memorable experience for all. She has brought recognition to WCU with her work with “Rock The Vote” and has served as an ambassador of WCU to the surrounding community.”
The five judges who will review the contestants aren’t exactly Paula, Simon and Randy, but the job is taken seriously. “The judges bring their own diverse experiences to the panel and each provide something different,” said Hartman. “Most of them have experience in pageants, community service, performing and scholastic achievements.”
Judging is based on free expression, in which the contestant will choose to perform vocally, instrumentally, with dance, etc., a casual and evening wear show, and an on-stage question. The majority of scoring, however, is based on an off-stage question-and-answer interview of each contestant with the judges.
Even if not elected Miss WCU, the remaining 16 contestants will not walk away empty-handed. According to Hartman, over $3,000 worth of prizes will be given out, including “gift certificates for shows, salons, shopping, etc., as well as gift baskets and other items. The program is sponsored by Residence Life and Housing, WCU Alumni Association, Office of Co-Curricular Programs, [and] Aramark, and this year we are excited to have MDL Capital Management join us again as a scholarship sponsor.”
For those who see the Miss WCU competition as nothing more than a beauty pageant, Hartman urges them to take a closer look. “The program is meant to be fun, rewarding, and a celebration of the talents and hard work of our contestants. WCU has a lot of wonderful people and this is just another way to recognize them. Participating in the program really shows someone what the program is all about.”
In addition, the pageant prepares the contestants for the working world in the form of interview skills and a host of awards to include on a rsum. According to Hartman, the Academic, Leadership, Community, Interview, and Talent awards “look great on an individual’s rsum.”
“The most rewarding aspect is to see the contestants grow in a short period of time,” said Hartman. “They really have a blast and make the experience very memorable. It is also rewarding to see the winner of Miss WCU grow during her year and achieve her goals.