Pageant comes to Tuscaloosa

Pageant comes to Tuscaloosa

Forty-three years ago, a junior from the University of Alabama took the stage at the Miss Universe pageant and won.

Nominated by older girls in her sorority, Sylvia Hitchcock borrowed a gown, put on a swimsuit and took the stage at the Miss Alabama USA competition. After being crowned Miss Alabama, she moved on to win Miss USA and finally Miss Universe 1967.

This weekend, the Miss Alabama USA and Miss Alabama Teen USA pageants will take place at the Bama Theatre. This will be the first time the pageants take place in Tuscaloosa, and Dohn Dye, executive director for Miss Alabama USA, said he believes the change brings many positives.

“This move gives us the opportunity to breathe new life into the pageant,” Dye said. “It gets lost in Birmingham. Tuscaloosa will embrace it and the girls involved.”

The pageant begins Nov. 6 at 8 p.m. with the presentation show, which includes 90 competitors in eveningwear and swimsuits. Sunday at 2 p.m. the top 15 finalists will be announced for Miss Alabama Teen USA. Then there will be an interview portion of the competition and the crowning of Miss Alabama Teen USA. Sunday night at 6:30, the Miss Alabama USA competition continues in the same style and will conclude with the crowning of Miss Alabama USA.

The winner of Miss Alabama USA will go on to compete in the Miss USA pageant.

The pageant scoring is divided equally between an interview portion, a swimsuit portion and an eveningwear portion. Unlike the Miss America circuit of pageants, there is not a talent portion.

“It’s a beauty pageant,” Dye said. “These girls are judged on beauty, intelligence and charisma.”

The Miss USA pageant circuit reaches women from all parts of the country, and this week all areas of Alabama will be represented.

“This weekend, Tuscaloosa is going to face an influx of 90 of the most beautiful women in the state, if not the nation,” Dye said.

Bringing the competition to Tuscaloosa was a smooth transition, Dye said.

“The city of Tuscaloosa was extraordinarily helpful, and there are so many University connections, it just worked out so well,” he said. Dye himself attended Alabama, and his close friend, Christopher Dean, is choreographing the show’s dance numbers.

Dean graduated from the University with a degree in dance and works as a choreographer in New York City.

“This is also something new this year,” Dye said. “He’s going to bring a lot of energy into the pageant, making it a really fun show.”

Not only will former UA graduates be a part of the pageant, eight current University students will be competing on the Bama Theatre stage as well.

And while some of the women participating may have more experience than others, each of them expressed excitement for the upcoming weekend.

“I’m a little nervous,” said Mary Margaret McCloud, a junior majoring in public relations. “But really, I’m more excited than anything. We’ve been waiting so long for this weekend, and now it’s finally here.”

Heather Foster, a senior majoring in public relations, said she was excited to see the new changes implemented this year.

“Not only is it in Tuscaloosa, but our new director, Dohn, is making this pageant better than ever before,” she said.

And to many of the competitors, winning is not the only goal they have for the weekend.

“Pageants teach you a lot about yourself,” Dye said. “When those girls get on stage, they ‘do their thing’ and you can see self-confidence building.”

“I’m a shy person most of the time, but when I’m on stage, I’m at my best,” said Kia Boyd, a senior majoring in African-American studies. “Pageants are such a positive experience, not only because they build confidence, but also because they teach you discipline.”

Boyd, like many of the other competitors, has been preparing for the pageant throughout the past few months. From practicing interview questions to diet and exercise, the preparation process can be demanding, but many competitors believe the sacrifice is worth it.

“It’s that moment when you’re walking on stage,” McCloud said. “It goes by so fast. You almost feel like you’re alone out there. It’s in warp speed, but I love it every time.”

Dye encourages the Alabama community to attend, not only to support the eight women who will be representing the University along with their designated region, but to see what he calls “one of the premier events of the state.”

“This isn’t your momma’s beauty pageant,” Dye said. “There’s a little something for everyone. And who knows, maybe even the next Miss Universe will be up there.”

Tickets are available online at missalabamausa.com, and, starting Friday at noon, at the Bama Theatre box office.  Tickets will also be on sale Sunday from 8 a.m. until the start of the show.

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