Pageant of elegance: Who will be crowned Ms. Mississippi Senior America?

Published 7:00 am Saturday, July 11, 2015

The Ms. Mississippi Senior America pageant will be held today.  Photo submitted

The Ms. Mississippi Senior America pageant will be held today.
Photo submitted

“Beautiful young people are accidents of nature, but beautiful old people are works of art.” –– Eleanor Roosevelt.

Today, seven ladies will take the stage at Picayune’s Pittman Family Life Center to display their poise, grace, beauty and talent during the 2015 Ms. Mississippi Senior America pageant.
According to, Senior America Inc. was created in 1971 to promote the positive aspects of aging. The first pageant was held in 1972 and enhanced the public’s awareness of senior American’s social contributions.
This year, crown hopefuls travel to Picayune from various areas throughout the state to compete.
Senior America Inc. is a non-profit organization and according to its mission statement, “the Ms. Senior America pageant is the world’s first and foremost pageant to emphasize and give honor to women who have reached the “Age of Elegance.” It is a search for the gracious lady who best exemplifies the dignity, maturity and inner beauty of all senior Americans. The Ms. Senior America philosophy is based upon the belief that seniors are the foundation of America and our most valuable treasure. It is upon their knowledge, experience and resources that the younger generation has the opportunity to build a better society.”
In 2003, Picayune resident Bonnie Hughes saw an advertisement for the Ms. Mississippi Senior America pageant and decided to enter her mother, Gladys, into the pageant.
At 80-years-old, Gladys was crowned Ms. Mississippi Senior America, and thus began their journey. Gladys participated in the national competition in Reno, Nevada and won a $5,000 prize.
For the next seven years, Gladys served as director of the Ms. Mississippi Senior America pageant.
Today’s event marks the seventh occasion the pageant has been held in Picayune, Bonnie said.
Bonnie now serves as director of the event and was crowned Ms. Mississippi Senior America in 2011. Debbie Craig, 2014 Ms. Mississippi Senior America serves as assistant director and Gladys is director emeritus.
“Seniors are such a valuable asset to society and this event brings them to the forefront,” Bonnie said.
Annual fundraisers are held each year to cover pageant and travel costs for the winner to attend the national competition, Bonnie said.
During today’s pageant, the ladies will be judged in four categories including the interview, their talent, their evening gown and their philosophy of life.
This year’s Ms. Senior Mississippi America’s contenders include Shan Carrasco from Water Valley, Diane Danzey from Hattiesburg, Geri Lisotta from Carriere, Sandy Lemoine from Picayune, Dr. Barbara Mauldin from Petal, Barbara Pepper from Madison and Betty Wheat from Brandon.
“For some of these ladies, this is a new experience,” Gladys said. “They step out the box and meet new friends. It also builds their confidence.”
This year’s event will be judged by Byrle Harrell of Hair by Byrle Salon, Pearl River Central High School theater teacher Ginger Schmidt and E. Jae James, director of X-Finity Dance Academy in Picayune. The statistician for the pageant is Jan Jarrell, retired career and technical education and computer science teacher.
Today’s winner will travel to Atlantic City, New Jersey in October to compete for the national title.
“It’s a good time and we want Picayune to get the publicity,” Bonnie said. “We want them to know senior America is here too.”
The Pittman Family Life Center is located at 498 N. Haugh Ave. Doors open to the public at 1:30 and there is a $5 donation to see the competition.
For more information about Senior America Inc., visit

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