Local Contestants Enjoy Miss North Carolina Pageant Exeperience
The excitement was evident Saturday night in Raleigh as the 75th Miss North Carolina Pageant got under way.
After an opening number by the contestants, the top 10 semifinalists were announced, one of whom was Southern Pines resident Kensley Leonard, Miss Greater Sandhills. There was a new twist this year as an 11th contestant, chosen by online voting, was allowed to compete in the finals.
Leonard competed in evening gown, swimsuit and talent competitions, performing the song “My Strongest Suit” from the Broadway hit “Aida.” Contestants also had a lengthy interview with the judges prior to the pageant.
Although Leonard did not advance to the top five, as a semifinalist she received a $1,000 scholarship. Arlie Honeycutt, Miss Kinston-Lenoir, won the title.
“All of the contestants were intelligent, talented and well-spoken,” says Kaye Fritz, of the Miss Greater Sandhills organization. “Kensley’s hard work and determination to do well in Miss N.C. were evidenced by the fact that she made the top 10.”
Leonard, who had competed more than once in the Miss N.C. Outstanding Teen pageants, says her first time in the Miss N.C. Pageant was fun.
“It was rewarding and exhausting at the same time,” she says. “We would have rehearsals at 8 in the morning and then be going until midnight. The schedule was more rigorous because the pageant was televised.”
Leonard had a ready-made group of friends before the week started.
“I was on the Azalea Court in Wilmington this year and spent six days with a group of eight girls,” she says. “We formed a bond then that continued during the pageant.”
When her name was called for the top 10, Leonard says she screamed out loud.
“I shrieked,” she says, “but hopefully nobody could hear me with all of the other noise.”
Leonard, a rising senior at N.C. State University, says her goal was to make the top 10 so that she would have the opportunity to compete for the title.
“I went out and did my best, and I was excited to have that chance,” she says.
Summer Hennings, Miss Moore County, competed in the preliminary events Monday through Wednesday evenings. This was her first Miss N.C. Pageant, and in fact, only the second time she had been in a pageant of any kind.
“The pageant was a wonderful experience,” she says. “I had so much fun — more than I ever expected! I will say the week was exhausting. Most days we were working off five to six hours of sleep, and we had up to three rehearsals a day.”
As with Leonard, Hennings bonded with several other contestants.
“I made some great friends, particularly within my group,” she says. “We’re already making plans to hang out sometime this summer. I truly think some of these girls will be close friends for life.”
And will Hennings, a rising junior at UNC-Chapel Hill, compete again?
“Definitely not this year,” she says. “I need a break. I think I might try to do another my senior year, though. I would really love the opportunity to be Miss N.C. Being Miss N.C. is literally a PR job (my major) — you’re the face of a business. It would be an excellent stepping stone for me and would open many doors down the road. Plus, I have loved being Miss Moore County, and I want to know what kind of influence I can have as Miss N.C.”
Since the organization was celebrating its 75th anniversary, 44 former titleholders were present, including Maria Beale Fletcher, Miss N.C. 1961 and Miss America 1962. Fletcher is the only Miss N.C. so far to wear the national crown, although several Miss N.C. queens have been chosen first-runner up.
“We did have a chance to talk with some of them at the Friday night gala,” says Leonard, who says she is still deciding whether or not to continue competing.
“I am Miss Greater Sandhills until Sept. 8, so after that, we’ll see,” she says. “I have three more years of eligibility.”
Anyone interested in information about competing in the Miss Greater Sandhills Pageant scheduled for Sept. 8 should contact Kaye Fritz at (910) 690-8696 or (910) 944-7117 or email@example.com, or Jan Spivey at (910) 944-5997 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Contact Faye Dasen at fdasen@thepilot. com or (910) 693-2475.
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