Helena resident named Ms. Senior Alabama

Published 5:10 pm Wednesday, July 5, 2023

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By BARTON PERKINS | Staff Writer

BIRMINGHAM – Despite it being only her third year competing in beauty pageants, Helena’s Kathy Paiml was able to secure the coveted title of Ms. Senior Alabama during a recent competition.

Paiml was crowned as Ms. Senior Alabama on June 10 during a competition in Birmingham. This marks Paiml’s second title after she was previously named Ms. Senior Helena.

Paiml first began competition in beauty pageants during the COVID-19 Pandemic.

“It was all by chance,” Paiml said. “I had to retire back in January 2021, and during that time, Covid had already started, and I knew that I really wanted to start volunteering. But my options were slim because they weren’t accepting outside people in any of the organizations. So, I didn’t know what to do.”

Originally from Louisville, Kentucky, Paiml moved to Alabama 25 years ago. Before retiring, Paiml worked as an educator throughout Shelby County. 

“I didn’t start teaching till I was 38,” Paiml said. “I’d struggled with reading when I was a kid, so I never even thought about going into education. So, I was a secretary and then a stay-at-home mom. And then I started volunteering in my boys’ school, I thought, ‘Well, maybe I could do this.’”

After deciding to change careers, Paiml spent years in the classroom teaching second and third grade. She would later move into working in administration, serving as first an assistant principal in Hoover and then a principal in a Helena Intermediate school before deciding to retire in the midst of Covid. It was not long before Paiml found herself interested in trying something new.

“I was looking online one day, and Kim (Chair of Ms. Senior Alabama) had posted on ‘What’s Happening in Helena’ (a Facebook Group) about how we didn’t have a Ms. Senior Helena and how we needed one for the pageants coming up,” Paiml said. “I had never ever, ever done pageants before. And then, well, that just intrigued me I thought, ‘Well, maybe that’s something I can do.’ I always like to dress up and to shop.”

After confirming that the pageant would not require a bathing suit or talent section, Paiml decided to try competing. Despite only having a handful of months to prepare, Paiml wound up winning first runner-up in her first-ever pageant in 2021 and then got the same place again back in 2022. She almost did not compete a third time.

“I came in first runner up the second time, and I thought, ‘Well, this just might be it’,” Paiml said. “Maybe it’s not meant to be or whatever, but then they said it was going to be in Birmingham. I said, Okay, I’m going to try one more time. So, I did it again, and I won.”

Like many contestants, Paiml uses the pageants to help bring awareness to various service projects that she is involved with. In her case, Paiml works at Unless U two days a week, teaching character education and math to adults with developmental disabilities. 

“I love working with the adults,” Paiml said. “They just make me smile. We laugh and smile all day long. They’re just happy, and it just makes me happy.”

In the “active lifestyle” segment of her presentation, Paiml dresses up in a miracle league uniform in reference to both her work in the classroom with her special needs students and how she works as a baseball coach to both special needs adults and children.

Similarly, for her “fashion runway” segment, Paiml wore a pink top as a reference to surviving breast cancer and her continued support of those battling the disease.

“My grandmother and my aunt both died of breast cancer, and they were 40 and 60,” Paiml said. “I was diagnosed when I was 48 and had surgery a few months later when I was 49.”

Paiml said that she originally started being in pageants because she wanted to try something new and show that no matter how old you are, it’s never too late to start something. 

“It’s never too late,” Paiml said.  “That’s one of the things that the pageant Miss Senior Alabama is all about. It’s never too late to try something new, and I have met the most wonderful ladies being a part of this.”

Paiml is expected to appear in a few events as part of her duties as the current Ms. Senior Alabama, including Bras Across the CAUSEway in Mobile. She will also be crowning the next Ms. Senior Alabama on June 1, 2024. 

Paiml’s next pageant will be Ms. Senior World, taking place in Biloxi, Mississippi, in November 2024, where she will compete with other state champions from all over the country.