A night of Talent: Local resident hosts 13th annual pageant

Published 7:00 am Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Pictured, top row from left, are Robbie Jones, Paul Breland and Donna Perkins. Second row from left are Jessica Burge and Alissa Smith. From bottom left are Peggy Wilson and Bob McAdoo. Photo by Cassandra Favre

Pictured, top row from left, are Robbie Jones, Paul Breland and Donna Perkins. Second row from left are Jessica Burge and Alissa Smith. From bottom left are Peggy Wilson and Bob McAdoo.
Photo by Cassandra Favre

“You are the stars and world is watching you. By your presence, you send a message to every village, every city, every nation. A message of hope. A message of victory.” –– Eunice Kennedy Shriver, Special Olympics World Games (1987)

Thirteen years ago during her reign as Mrs. Louisiana US, Pearl River County native Donna Perkins visited members of the county’s intellectually disabled community.
Perkins was no stranger to this group, having done volunteer work for the mentally challenged and elderly in the past, she said.
“I always went to their dances and events,” Perkins said. “During one of those times, one of the girls told me she wanted to be a queen like me.”
A few months later, Perkins hosted the first Mentally Challenged Beauty and Beau pageant.
Friday, more than 30 participants sang and danced their way into the hearts of those in attendance. Six titles were awarded, but all contestants received an award in one of the following categories including, most handsome, best sportsmanship, Mr. and Mrs. Congeniality, sweetheart, above and beyond, personality and most beautiful.
The top scorers were awarded the titles of princess, prince, queen, king, queen of queens and king of kings.
Ivaly Barnes has been named princess for the past two years and said she looks forward to getting “prettied up and being with Mrs. Donna.”
This year, Barnes chose to perform the hymn, “Too Close to the Mirror.”
“I was playing it at home and got to liking it,”
she said. “God told me this was the song. The pageant makes me feel beautiful, like I can do anything. The first time I did it, I got stage fright, but I got some confidence from people who told me I could do it.”
This year’s judges were Marlene Miele and Sandy Lemoine, who judged participants’ performance and a short biography, which was read by Perkins.
Perkins and her husband, Brian, perform on the world championship dancing circuit and during the pageant, and she lent her dancing skills to many of the dancers, including participant Paul Breland. The pair danced to the song, “I Can Only Imagine,” a routine they have performed at many American Cancer Society’s Dancing with the Relay Stars event, including the event in Picayune where they were named runner-ups.
“I like dancing with a pretty woman,” Breland said. “It feels really good dancing. I used to be kind of nervous, but now I’m getting used to it. Dancing is my dream because I always want to dance and be a star one day.”
Among the dancers and singers, there was Alissa Smith, who performed the song “Bow my Knee” entirely in sign language.
“My mom and sister taught me how to sign,” she said. “It makes me feel like a good Christian, and I also feel beautiful during the pageant.”
Participant Robbie Jones credits God for Perkins’ presence in their lives. Accompanied by his guitar, Jones performed an old Don Williams country song entitled “I Believe in You.”
“My girlfriend picked the song out for me,” Jones said. “I like to perform. It feels great, like being a star.”
Each contestant was escorted either by Brian Perkins, members of Pearl River Central’s NJROTC or former pageant winners.
At the end of the program the winners received their crowns with excitement and smiles. Peggy Wilson was awarded princess and Bob McAdoo was named prince.
In the Queen and King category, Jessica Burge and Robbie Jones reigned supreme. Paul Breland was named King of Kings and Alissa Smith graciously accepted the title of Queen of Queens.
Friday’s contestants also included Rita Bond, Cindy Martin, Diane Hutton, Terrell Darden, Audrey Townsend, Jason Riley, Earl Dragon, Bradley Morrow, Deanen Lacy, Stephanie Davis, Desiree Wamsley, Jacy Taylor, Cecille Hatten, Rebecca Rossbach, Luke Gray, Timmy Rafello, Johnny Finney, Keith Varnado, Matthew Elliot, Shannon Whitfield, Lucia Hinton, Cassie McLeod and Wendy Erickson.
During their reign, the winners will perform at different events, Perkins said. The Perkinses also lead a praise and worship team made up of members from the intellectually disabled community and the couple also host a Christmas party for them each year.
Perkins said she thanks God she is able to make this pageant happen. She also would like to thank her husband and the pageant’s annual sponsors.
“It really makes me look to see how fortunate I am,” Perkins said. “Through the years, they’ve touched many people’s hearts and they touch mine every year. They want to be like and do things like us. They talk about dating, driving cars, taking trips, going out to eat or walking without a cane. “This pageant gives them an opportunity to do that. I thank God I’m able to make them happy.”

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