By Reagan Murr
Elizabeth Franklin won the Miss MHB 2020-2021 title at Walton Chaple on Halloween night, Saturday, Oct. 31. She was crowned at a unqiue Miss MHB pageant with social distancing in place. Franklin, a junior psychology major from Georgetown represented the student recruiting organization Search CRU.
For 50 years, the annual Miss MHB pageant provided young female students at UMHB the chance to show off their talents while advocating for causes that are important to them, and make new friends. Even with the challenges that COVID-19 presents, the pageant continued to play a vital role on UMHB’s campus this year.
“It’s a chance to get to know people and be silly and dance,” said senior Miss MHB contestant Alissa Edgington. “[Miss MHB] is a chance to meet new people and get yourself out of your comfort zone.”
Kaysie Sparks, a former Miss MHB contestant, directed this year’s pageant. Sparks’ experience as a participant created a desire to put her own spin on the event. As director, she was responsible for getting the contestants ready for their pageant performances.
“People all the time think that we just throw the girls on stage and this is all stuff they do on their own, but we practice three times a week from 5:45 to 9 o’clock,” said Sparks. This training begins about a month and a half before the actual show.
“We go over every detail of pageant with them,” Sparks said. “We practice anything from walking in heels to how they’re going to give their platform speech to the judges. They kind of do everything.”
Eunice Michaelson, who participated in last year’s pageant, expressed how intimidating being the pageant can be at first.
“It’s almost like syllabus week,” Michaelson said. “You’re taking it all in, and that’s kind of how the first week of pageant is. [There’s] this long list of things to do, and it can feel overwhelming.”
But Michaelson also said that once practices began, it felt much more manageable.
“It grew to be this really comfortable thing where we all knew each other, we all got comfortable with each other’s talent,” Michaelson said. “We just kind of formed this bond.”
An article in The Bells, “Miss Search Cru wins Miss MHB 2020” by Destinee Reinauer, highlighted the camaraderie of the girls as the pageant winner, Molly Rodeffer, was announced last year. The goal of the pageant, Reinauer explained, is to impart confidence to those young women who participate and bring out the passion and heart of UMHB students.
“Don’t think of it as a competition,” said Alissa Edgington. Instead, she encourages future contestant hopefuls to see Miss MHB as an opportunity to make new friends and represent one’s passions.
While Miss MHB remains an important campus tradition, COVID-19 challenged the way the pageant was conducted.
“Planning a pageant during a pandemic has been one of the craziest things I probably could ever put on a resume,” said Sparks. “Nothing is the same.”
Contestants were required to wear masks constantly during practices and during the show unless a contestant was alone on stage. During the dances performed by the young women, contestants were kept to social distancing standards.
It is expected that those interested in watching the pageant will have the opportunity to view a live stream of the event.
When asked what she was most looking forward to before the performance on Oct. 31, Edgington said “being proud of the show that we put on.” “That is often…the most rewarding thing,” clarified Edgington. “When you get to the end of it, it’s just like ‘we did it.’”