Ms. Senior USA Wins in Vegas
Seniors teach a class in perseverance; “Can-Do” becomes “Will-Do”
Las Vegas was treated to awe as dozens of participants ages 60-94 rolled into town for the Fifth Anniversary Ms. Senior USA 2020 Pageant. While most of Las Vegas remained COVID-closed, these beautiful senior women took over a convention space at the fabulous Orleans Hotel. They were unstoppable, and taught a lesson in perseverance by staging their pageant when billion-dollar casinos and massive stage productions shows were shut down. Energetic yet safe, these senior women served as a wake-up call and were credited with helping to kick-start Las Vegas back to normalcy.
Ms. Senior USA 2020 was a testament to senior women and their living example of #Embrace, #Encourage, #Empower. The women were joined by Southwest Video of Los Angeles, and another Hollywood production company seeking to develop a television series based on Ms. Senior USA. The pageant was hosted by entertainment icon, Derek David of the Platters, with special commentary from Nicole Duffel, the current Ms. Senior Universe 2020-2021. Recognizing the pandemic is still a fact of life, on arrival in Las Vegas, each Senior Queen was greeted by an EMT who also performed the necessary health checks, and presented the Queen with a package which included the usual swag, but also included Ms. Senior USA and Ms. Senior Universe specialty brand masks, after which the Senior Queens were personally escorted to the hotel, and to each event thereafter to ensure their safety.
After arrival, beginning with a steak and egg brunch hosted by the Boyd Gaming Corporation, the Senior Queens were treated to pre-pageant activities which have become the standard for Ms. Senior USA Pageant week. During brunch, the Ms. Senior USA Queens were introduced to the new sash and banner design by the Sash Company which was sturdier, with higher quality materials and crystals than previous inceptions, including a bonus for many Queens present, a featured hidden pocket that could hold the ever-present cell phone. Following brunch, the Queens were transported to Tei Spa Beauty, a special individual products location “Where Beauty Meets Hi-Tech.” Representatives treated the women to gifts and a presentation on empowerment and how to feel comfortable and beautiful in their own skin. Ms. Senior USA sponsor, DuBarry Fashions was next for bling shopping. To the uninitiated, DuBarry has been known to issue warnings regarding the brightness of the thousands of crystal encrusted products lining its shelves and walls.
The next day, the Ms. Senior USA Queens were introduced to an 80-foot hot air balloon brought over 1,000 miles to Las Vegas from the State of Washington by Dream Catcher, a company owned by Queen Captain-Crystal Stout. The City of Las Vegas assisted Dream Catcher by providing a park from which to launch this one-of-kind balloon which included a special seat designed for kids, the disabled, and elderly. Through this special design, individuals normally shut-in can experience the power of flight, with Dream Catcher providing special rides to disabled veterans before the arrival of the queens. With a backdrop of the majestic high-desert peaks of Mount Charleston and Sunrise Mountain, the Veterans and Senior Queens were joined on their rides by therapy dog Lucee Light for an incredibly special day.
Fresh from the exhilarating experience of flight, the Senior Queens then changed into their regalia of gown, sash, and crown for the Queens dinner hosted by Lake Mead Cruises. Cruising aboard a vintage paddle-wheeler in perfect weather, the cruise on Lake Mead traveled to the base of the towering Hoover Dam, specially lighted at night. With the dam as a spectacular backdrop, the Queens dined on prime rib, salmon, pasta, and an extensive variety of delicacies.
From festivities to work, interviews began on Wednesday of pageant week in the special Orleans location created specifically for the production. The venue was a magnificent set built within a 10,000 square foot convention space, but closed to the outside public to protect the health of the Senior Queens, although friends and family of the contestants were allowed to attend the show. Dressing rooms were constructed on-set, and the stage was designed to incorporate computer graphics and a 30-foot back-lit projection screen. The personal interviews were both scored for the pageant and filmed for use in future TV productions. Following Interview, a special presentation recognized the production crew, pageant photographer Gary Duffel, and concluded with the Senior Queens presented with their official pageant “Superbowl-style” rings and pins.
Show day began with the presentation of the colors by the American Legion and the National Anthem. The oldest active Senior Queens, 91-year-old Ms. Grand Dame Universe, Marilyn Kohler, performed a duet with 94-year-old, Klyda Mahoney. Klyda Mahoney was then crowned as 2020 Ms. Grand Dame Universe, joining 2019 Grand Dame Marilyn Kohler and 2018 Marilyn O’Connell.
From the many contestants who trekked to Las Vegas from across the country, the field had been narrowed down to the finalists in each division. Serenaded by sounds of “This is Me” from the “Greatest Showman,” the finalists, dressed in their state costumes were introduced: Victoria Rangel, Becky Wu, Captain-Crystal Stout, Nancy Berhorst, Barbara Reincke, Charlotte Ambrose, Mari Lewis, Gailyn Saahir, Peggy Fowler, Donna Perkins, Marsha Radford and Phyllis “Philly” Arnold. The judges included Ms. Senior USA Queen Nicole Duffel and Grande Dames Marilyn Kohler and Klyda Mahoney, as well as two secret judges embedded within the group activities. Ms. Senior USA evaluates not only the “on-stage” presence of the delegate, but the overall individual including interaction with their sister Queens and public, their demeanor, and the question “Is there a great on-stage presence for the purpose of the pageant, but a contradiction at other times when no one is thought to be looking?”
A true “Queens” Pageant, throughout the week, the participants and contestants were assisted by Ms. Senior Canada Universe Shelley Gish, Ms. Senior Philippines Estelita Paulin, Ms. Samoa United States Tusi Alston, Ms. Senior Italy Marianne Lucchesi Hamilton, and Senior Media Ambassador Jana Vida. With Ms. Senior USA Queen Nicole Duffel now seated at the judge’s table, Ms. Senior USA 2019-2020 Cherie Kidd and Ms. Super Senior Universe 2020 Joanie Helgesen were welcomed to the stage to assist with the final show.
From the opening number to Evening Gown, to the philosophy of life, and talent competitions, the Ms. Senior USA queens presented the best and most glamorous examples of the Senior Woman. Eventually, the moment arrived for the proclamations. The announcements began with the induction into the Senior Hall of Fame and presentation of the Spirit Awards provided by Pageantry magazine, with Grande Dames Marilyn Kohler and Klyda Mahoney receiving the honors. Next came the recognition of those responsible for reaching out and enhancing the relationship of the pageant with other organizations, the Ambassador Program, with Jana Vida continuing her role as Senior Media Ambassador, Marianne Lucchesi Hamilton, a 30-time gold medalist and 2013 Overall Champion of the World Senior Games appointed as Senior Games Ambassador, Donna Perkins recognized as the Senior Ambassador to the Senior Professional Rodeo Organization, and Marsha Radford, a former Ms. America, Ms. USA and Ms. Universe runner-up body builder champion appointed as Health and Fitness Ambassador.
The awards ceremony began with Best Gown awarded to first-time contestant Becky Wu, Best Talent to veteran Peggie Fowler, and Best Costume to America’s Got Talent alumni Mari Lewis. In the “Baby Brand” of Ms. Senior United States (ages 50-59), 2nd runner-up Victoria Rangel, 1st runner-up Becky Wu, and Balloon pilot Captain-Crystal Stout was crowned as Ms. Senior United States 2020. In the Super Senior (75+) category: 2nd runner-up Nancy Berhorst, 1st runner-up Charlotte Ambrose, with Barbara Reincke, who left a hospital bed to compete, capturing the crown of Ms. Super Senior USA 2020.
Ms. Senior USA honored Lenny Kaplan, who founded the senior pageant movement by producing the very first national senior pageant, Ms. Senior Sweetheart of America. Ms. Senior USA is keeping the title alive by awarding the oldest national senior title to either Miss Congeniality or to the Ms. Senior USA first runner-up. Gailyn Saahir, as First Runner-Up to Ms. Senior USA, received the title. Rounding out the Top 5 Ms. Senior USA 2020 finalists were Mari Lewis, Peggy Fowler, Donna Perkins, and Marsha Radford. With the crowning finale, Ms. Senior USA 2020 was awarded to Phyllis “Philly” Arnold.
After the pageant, the Queens treated Charlotte Ambrose to a Happy Birthday dinner and threw a surprise birthday party for Captain-Crystal Stout with queens staying in town to continue shopping. However, when the time came, each was treated with personal transport to the airport to wish them a safe journey home. In the week following the pageant, Senior Games Ambassador and breast cancer survivor Marianne Hamilton was honored, along with other cancer survivors, by 2-time breast cancer survivor, Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman and the National Football League during the Las Vegas Raiders and Tampa Bay Buccaneers game being played in the new billion-dollar Allegiant Stadium.
With newly crowned Ms. Senior USA Philly Arnold embarking upon her reign, Ms. Senior USA 2019-2020, Cherie Kidd, in honor of a spectacular year in which Cherie was recognized by the TGBA as Best Titleist, being crowned on the floor of the United Nations as a Senior Ambassador to the UN International Women’s Day and its 193 member nations, was awarded the Platinum VIP guest package to attend the Miss USA 2020 Pageant held at Graceland.
In exciting news for the Ms. Senior USA Organization, Ms. Senior USA 2021 will be the first nationally televised senior pageant for women to be broadcast on a major network. Congratulations to the Ms. Senior USA Organization and to all the empowered women who make up this greatest generation.
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