A manifestation of beauty. An expression of talent. A reflection of character. These simple words were the essential theme of the Miss Mary Hardin-Baylor pageant this year.
The weekend of Nov. 4-5 showcased 23 women whose talents, platforms and personalities were as different as night and day. The contestant who shone the brightest and won was junior education major Lauren Rodriguez, who represented Burt Hall.
Rodriguez performed a storytelling-type talent from the book Skippy Jon Jones, a story about a kitten who imagines itself to be a crime-fighting chihuahua. Rodriguez’s talent brought plenty of laughs from the audience.
“Storytelling has such a special place in my heart,” Rodriguez said. “My dad’s in the military, and when I was little and he had to leave, he would place a children’s book and a tape recording of his voice reading the book to me under my pillow.”
It was not only Rodriguez’s talent, but her platform as well that made her stand out.
Her platform is supporting military families because so many students who attend the university have military backgrounds. She realizes the disconnect between campus and Fort Hood and hopes to bridge that gap.
“There’s such a need for those kids whose parents are deployed. I hope I can encourage my fellow Crusaders to get involved,” she said.
Senior international business major Stacy Hillin also competed in pageant this year and was thoroughly impressed by Rodriguez’s ideas.
“Her platform was really good. Her personal experience with her dad being deployed definitely helped. I know Lauren has such a heart for children, and she is going to do great things as Miss MHB.”
Rodriguez has had pageant blood in her from the beginning. Her aunt was an RA in Burt, just like her, and was not only in pageant for two years but was a director as well. Hearing about it and seeing the women on stage last year led Rodriguez to figure out it was something she wanted to do.
“Throughout this process, I’ve grown so much.” She said. “I can’t give (director) Landra Davidson enough credit. She did such a beautiful job. There was not really a theme this year; it was more of a concept. Landra used mirrors as a symbol that each girl was a reflection of Christ and had their own personal ‘theme.’”
One of the most amazing things about Rodriguez’s story is her surprise visit from her mother. Her parents and siblings live in Japan because of her dad’s job, so it was unlikely that they would be able to attend.
After the pageant banquet on Thursday, the night before pageant began, Rodriguez got a phone call. It was her mother saying she was in Texas.
“My mom was not supposed to come initially. But she bought the ticket the day before the banquet; she said she couldn’t not come. This would not have been the same experience without her. God is good.”
The people who were involved in pageant were thrilled that Rodriguez was chosen the winner.
Senior international business major Pancho Gutierrez, who was also assistant director, said, “I’ve noticed something very unique about the girls who win pageant, and it’s that they have a big heart for all of the girls involved. So yes, I did have Lauren in my top this year because I knew she would win the judges with her personality and kind heart.”
Jeff Sutton, assistant director of Campus Activities, has worked on pageant for eight years.
“I expect you’ll see a lot of Lauren. She has to represent the university at various events now. I think her heart and personality were a big part of her winning,” he said.
Rodriguez said she is still in shock about winning.
“I feel honored, overwhelmed, humbled. I still can’t believe it,” she said. “If I had to sum up this experience in one word, it would be blessing.”