Pelham High School crowns 2024 Miss PHS

Published 4:19 pm Tuesday, March 5, 2024

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PELHAM – On Saturday, March 2, proud families and supportive classmates poured into the Pelham High School auditorium for a night of glitz and glam as 19 girls competed for the title of Miss PHS 2024. With glittering gowns and showstopping performances, this year’s Miss PHS pageant showcased the talent, intelligence and achievements of the next generation.

According to Pageant Director Kristen Blake, the Miss PHS pageant is a tradition started in 1977 that raises money for the PHS parent teacher organization.

“The Miss PHS pageant is an opportunity for girls of all grade levels to get to know one another,” Blake said. “Its purpose as a scholarship pageant is to allow the contestants to exercise their panel and on-stage interview skills.”

Due to focus on personal achievement and community engagement, Miss PHS is about more than beauty and popularity as Jeff Speegle, one of the evening’s hosts, reminded the crowd on the night of the pageant.

“You may have noticed that we do not call this a beauty pageant,” Speegle said. “That’s because this isn’t about looking pretty. This is about individuality and achievement, charitable and community service, leadership and communication.”

Every year, Miss PHS has a special theme that guides the pageant through the night. This year, Miss PHS asked the contestants and audience to consider the question “What was I made for?” based on the hit song from Greta Gerwig’s “Barbie.”

“Pageants are all about empowering young women to stand confident in who they are as individuals,” Blake said. “Barbie is a perfect representation of that!”

With bubblegum pink décor and hot pink silhouettes lining the stage, the Miss PHS pageant kicked off with a dance number to “Pink” by Lizzo, choreographed by theater teacher Melissa Bailey. With dazzling smiles, contestants waved to the crowd and introduced themselves to the audience by name and grade level.

As the contestants left the stage to prepare for the evening gown walk, the crowd was treated to three performances by Pelham High School students. With twirling batons and gravity-defying leaps, Junior Mackenzie Gilkerson and Senior Jessica Joy Ferguson dazzled the audience with solo majorette performances, while Madelyn Rasco entranced the crowd with her rendition of “New York State of Mind” by Billy Joel.

In the evening gown walk, the audience had the opportunity to learn more about each contestant. In dresses ranging from ruby mermaid gowns to sapphire sheaths, each contestant floated across the stage, smiling confidently while the hosts announced who they are and how they are involved in their communities.

During intermission, the judges retreated and discussed the selection of the top eight contestants. The judges evaluated the girls in various categories such as confidence, communication and poise. Meanwhile, attendees had the opportunity to vote on a contestant for the People’s Choice Award.

In alphabetical order, the top eight contestants that would continue with the next portion of the pageant were Sarah Gail Crumpton, Nyla Dickens, Baker Franklin, Flynt Hudson, MaKenzie Lewis, Anna Mann, Molly Seales and Kennedy Smith.

Each of the top eight girls had a second evening gown walk before answering surprise prompts in the question round.

As the girls sashayed across the stage, the hosts shared more background about the contestants, including who their biggest role models were and what they thought was the greatest threat facing their generation.

But rather than leave the stage after their walk, each girl approached the podium and selected a white slip of paper from a glass bowl. After reading the paper, the girls handed them over to the hosts with mere seconds to formulate their responses.

The questions covered a vast range of topics, from what they would discuss in a hypothetical lunch with the president to how they felt about a recent PHS policy that banned phones from classrooms.

After this last round, the judges tallied final scores as special guests came forward to occupy the crowd. The young men who escorted the ladies on the evening gown walk took a stab at the interview questions before crooning a few bars to the Backstreet Boys’ “I Want It That Way.” Next, one of the talent winners from the recent Mr. PHS competition left the crowd speechless with an electric guitar rendition of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.”

At the end of the night, the hosts presented the awards.

Two awards were voted on by the contestants themselves-Best Escort and Miss Congeniality.  The Best Escort award recognized the escort that supported the girls the most and never failed to make them laugh, Matthew Chaux. Designed to highlight a contestant that is positive, considerate and encouraging, Miss Congeniality was awarded to Anna Mann.

The judges selected a stand-out contest from their one-on-one interviews with Sarah Gail Crumpton taking home the award for Best Interview.

Determined by a headshot that girls could elect to submit, MaKenzie Lewis won the title of Miss Photogenic.

McKenzie Gonzalez-Vera won the People’s Choice Award.

Jr. Miss PHS recognizes any freshman, sophomore or junior with the highest contestant score from the criteria. The winner of Jr. Miss PHS was Flynt Hudson, with first runner up Baker Franklin.

Finally, Anna Mann won the title of 2024 Miss PHS, with first runner up Sarah Gail Crumpton.

While on stage, 2024 Miss PHS Anna Mann shared that pageants have had an overwhelmingly positive influence on her life.

“I have only done three pageants in my life, but I feel like every single time I’ve done one, I’ve gained even more confidence,” Mann said. “I’ve met people I never would have met just at school. Overall, I’ve just had a lifechanging, wonderful experience getting to experiment with different dresses and exposing myself to interviews. I really appreciate doing pageants.”

This sentiment was echoed by Blake who shared that she hopes every girl that participates leaves the Miss PHS pageant having grown as individuals.

“Ultimately, I hope the pageant allows the girls to build their confidence while making lasting memories,” Blake said. “I hope they learn that the best experiences come from stepping outside their comfort zone.”