On the surface, the idea of a beauty pageant seems more than a little, well, antiquated in this age of supposed equality and the #MeToo movement.
Patrick Poce, director of the annual Miss Weber County Scholarship Competition, understands well that perception. But he also says today’s Miss America-affiliated local competitions are a far cry from the beauty pageants of yesterday.
“It’s not even what we’d call a quote-unquote ‘beauty pageant,’” Poce said. “It’s a scholarship pageant. It’s designed to make young women empowered — as our mission states, to prepare great women for the world and prepare the world for great women.”
The 2019 Miss Weber County contest will be held at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 19, in Peery’s Egyptian Theater, 2415 Washington Blvd., Ogden. Tickets are $10, available through www.smithstix.com or by calling 801-689-8700.
The winner of this year’s Miss Weber County event will go on to compete in the Miss Utah contest next June, with that winner moving on to the Miss America competition in December 2020.
Organizers of the Miss America competition say the event has gone through a major shift — even referring to it as “Miss America 2.0” on the missamerica.org website.
“Miss America has evolved in society as women in society have evolved,” that website declares. “This past year, candidates were no longer judged on outward appearance. That meant the elimination of the swimsuit competition and additional time and focus on the candidates’ voices to be heard more often.”
Poce says that idea of empowering young women is a big part of the Miss Weber County ethos.
“In the new pageant world, Miss America is about empowering women — about being a woman,” he said. “Unlike in the past, the size and shape of the woman isn’t important.”
Poce, who has been involved with the Miss America organization for 45 years, says this is the 31st annual Miss Weber County title. The competition is open to women ages 17 to 25.
Saturday’s competition will feature 11 women from throughout Weber County, competing in four phases of the event — a private interview, talent, on-stage interview, and evening wear. Each candidate will also have an opportunity to discuss her chosen “social impact initiative,” an issue of concern in the community.
The talent portion of the evening is worth 40% of a contestant’s score.
This year’s contestants include Stacey Morrell, Rylie Herrera, Megan Lippold, Kalley Murphy, Kaylyn Payne, May Chen, Abigail Laing, Jenessa Higley, Hailey Thompson, Shyanne Smith and Hailey Slone.
The winner will be awarded $7,500 in scholarships, along with gifts and prizes donated by community sponsors. An additional $26,400 in scholarships and gifts will be awarded to various candidates.
Poce said it’s amazing to watch participants go through an evolution of sorts during the competition — from shy and quiet individuals to confident women. He said the Miss Weber County organization begins working with the candidates about two months before the pageant is held, offering workshops in the areas of fitness, public speaking, crafting social impact initiatives, makeup, style and more.
Poce said there’s an associated Little Miss, and young girls from that program will appear onstage with the Miss Weber County contestants on Saturday night.
“Every little girl wants to be a pageant queen at one point or another,” Poce said.
In between the women competing for the crown, other entertainment will be offered, according to Poce. He invites residents of Weber County to come and see what these scholarship competitions are like now.
“It’s an interesting evening for people to come and see how much pageants have changed, tow where they’re beneficial for the young women,” Poce said. “It’s a great evening of entertainment.These events aren’t long, they’re not boring, and they move pretty quickly.”
Besides, Poce points out, the Miss Weber County competition is an opportunity to catch a glimpse of the future leaders of the community, state and country.
“Who knows?” he said. “One of these women might be president someday.”