The next Miss America could be in Central Illinois, thanks to a new pageant.
“This pageant is a local preliminary for Miss Illinois and Miss America,” pageant executive director Angie Williams said. “In order to even have a shot at Miss America, you have to win something in the state and compete for Miss Illinois.”
The Miss Peoria Metro Scholarship Pageant, a preliminary to Miss Illinois and Miss America, will hold its first annual scholarship pageant at 6 p.m. March 9 at the Illinois Central College Performing Arts Center. Tickets are $10.
“I have had people say to me that you work full-time, why are you doing this?” Williams said. “My answer to that is that I have a daughter, Rebekah, who is now 19. She has competed within this organization, but we didn’t have anything in Peoria.
“There are between 20 and 30 preliminaries in the state but none locally. Through her involvement in the system, she matured and gained confidence in her public speaking and earned a Bradley University scholarship. This is a way for me to give back, and that’s why I took this on for this area. Why should it just be the Chicago, Champaign, Quincy and Macomb areas that have this?”
The top winner has the chance to move on to becoming Miss Illinois and Miss America.
The younger winners of the pageant also will be crowned by Miss Illinois Megan Ervin.
“She happens to be Miss Quincy,” Williams said. “She won a local in the state and won Miss Illinois. When you win Miss Illinois, you put your college education on hold for a year.
“This is a job for them. They take that scholarship money and then take a year off and represent the state.”
The categories contestants are placed into are miss, ages 17 to 24; teen, ages 13-17; and preteen, ages 10-12.
The miss category will be judged on 25 percent private interview with judges, 35 percent talent, 20 percent gown/evening wear, 5 percent onstage interview and 15 percent lifestyle and fitness in swimsuit.
The miss category is the only one where the contestants wear swimsuits.
The teen category is judged on 35 percent private interview with judges, 5 percent onstage interview, 35 percent talent, 15 percent personal appearance and poise in evening wear and 10 percent lifestyle and fitness.
“They are judged according to their talent as well as the private interview,” Williams said. “I have been quite pleased with our judges. I’ve been trying to get judges on the panel who have been successful in their own lives, and I’m very excited about our judging panel of five.”
The preteen category is judged on 35 percent private interview with judges, 35 percent talent, 20 percent gown/onstage question and 10 percent lifestyle and fitness.
Contestants must either reside, work or attend school in Illinois for six months by the application deadline for the miss category and reside or attend school in the state for the past six months for the teen and preteen categories.
There will also be a princess category for 5 to 12-year-old girls who will have an onstage question.
The application deadline is Feb. 9.
The winning contestants will be available for Miss Illinois week, which is June 24 through 29 in Marion.
“Each contestant has to do a resume and a platform, which the judges have access to before their interview,” Williams said.
“The platform is a cause that is close to their heart-whether it is Multiple Sclerosis or sexual abuse or distracted driving-these are various platforms these women have taken on to support.
“The resumé is why they think they should be chosen as the winner.”
To enter the pageant, contestants in the miss category must raise at least $100 for the Children’s Miracle Network, a charity that supports local children’s hospitals.
“The Children’s Miracle Network is the national platform for Miss America,” Williams said. “At the local level, we are excited to get involved in that.”
For a complete list of rules, application qualifications and paperwork, visit www.misspeoriametro.com or call Williams at 712-7816.
“We are a non-profit, just like Miss America is,” Williams said. “We really rely heavily on community involvement, and by that I mean, the attendance when we have a pageant to support us as well as entering young ladies into these pageants.
“Also, being a non-profit, we are always looking for sponsorships, whether it is an individual, a business or a corporation.”
For the winners at the pageant, the crowning is far from the last stop.
“These young women have to volunteer and give back to the community,” Williams said. “Whether it is things like clubs looking for speakers or school programs, they have to get involved in the community.”