2009 Ms. Mississippi Senior America named

Published 11:38 pm Tuesday, June 9, 2009

“I’m shocked,” said Barbara Travis of Flowood shortly after she was crowned 2009 Ms. Mississippi Senior America. She competed in Picayune on Saturday against four others vying for the same title.

Travis, who initially came on board as a back up contestant, said she only entered because she just couldn’t tell Gladys Hughes “no.” Hughes is the director for the local pageant and has been since claiming the title of Ms. Mississippi Senior America herself in 2003. This was the first year Travis qualified — each contestant must be at least 60 years of age to enter.

Perhaps more dear to Travis than claiming the crown, however, was the chance to compete in a pageant wearing a costume her mother had made for her 41 years ago.

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Travis explained that the red flapper costume she wore during the talent portion of Saturday’s competition was originally intended for her to wear during the Miss Mississippi Pageant all those years prior. Blowing out her knee, Travis could not dance in that pageant and therefore her mother’s handmade flapper dress never had a chance to make its big debut — till now!

On Saturday, donning the bright red costume, and an even brighter smile, Travis performed a jazz dance demonstrating her love of all things New Orleans — and her mother! Her dance performance, which counted for 30 percent of her overall score, was added to her earned points in the categories of interview, 30 percent; evening gown and poise, 20 percent and philosophy of life, 20 percent. Shortly thereafter Travis was declared the winner.

Magnolia Columns was the venue that housed all the glitz and glamour of this year’s Ms. Mississippi Senior America, a pageant designed to show off the strength and beauty of those women who have reached “The Age of Elegance.”

Competitors traveled in from all over the state for a chance at the crown. Competing against Travis was Diane Danzey from Hattiesburg, Arlene Bostic from Gautier, Shirley Robinson from Biloxi and Sharon Jones from Madison who was named first runner up.

Adding to the evening’s spectacle, a bevy of entertainment was provided for audience enjoyment. Past queens, Dr. Geraldine Roberts (2005), Betty R. Rushing (2008), Jessica Lacour (2007) and Suzanne Shelley (2007) each took a turn in spotlight, showing off their unique talents and proving once again their status as former pageant queens.

Another treat for the audience, was the special appearance by The Swinging Starlets of Biloxi — a group of senior women who perform dances to the musical genres of country, Broadway, and the 60s and 70s. On Saturday, the group performed two numbers, the first with top hats and canes to the classic tune, “Give My Regards to Broadway,” and they also performed a kick line routine to “One” from A Chorus Line.

The interludes in-between all the action, were filled effortlessly by Hughes with her daughter Bonnie Hughes. As emcees, the tag team duo kept the pace of the pageant flowing smoothly, and used their quick wit to fill voids when the contestants needed just a few more minutes to get into those evening gowns. Helping the Hughes team with that demanding job was concert pianist Kourtney Scheel, who also provided accompaniment for the women on all of their poise walks.

The job of determining a winner fell into the hands of three judges: Paul Page of Slidell, La., Darlene Adams of Picayune and Daniel L. Herrington, also of Picayune. Statistician Jan Jarrell once again held the job of tallying the judges’ scores while time keeper Toni Tucker made sure the women didn’t go over their allotted time limitations for each category.

Travis will now be charged with representing Mississippi on the national stage for the 2009 Ms. Senior America Pageant which will be held in Atlantic City, N.J., October 4-8. At least one former queen, Lacour, said she thought Travis had a wonderful shot at taking home the national title.

Good luck to Barbara Travis on the next phase of her pageant journey.