TYLER, Texas (KLTV) - Changing the image of aging is what organizers say is the goal of an upcoming pageant showcasing women ages 60 and older.
Peggy Wagner, of Plano, is the state director of the Ms. Texas Senior Classic Pageant, which will be held in Tyler later this month.
Wagner spoke to KLTV Photojournalist Arthur Clayborn on Thursday during a dance rehearsal.
“We’re having a workshop to help the ladies feel more at ease about what they have to do pageant weekend. We’ll be working on interviews. Then we’ll be working on modeling because those are two of the judging categories at the pageant,” she said.
Wagner has been involved in pageants for 35 years and part of the Ms. Texas Senior Classic Pageant for about 15 years.
“This pageant particularly is my favorite because we’re dealing with all senior ladies, and this is a very new venture for most of them, and it’s so wonderful and fun to see how they’ve made such a change and are getting out of their comfort zone," Wagner said.
A big part of the challenge for most of the contestants is finding a talent. Wagner said most of them will tell her they don’t have one. However, Wagner believes, “Everybody has a talent.”
And while magic tricks, dancing, and singing are the usual go-to performances for pageant contestants, Wagner said the talent portion at the senior pageant can include, doing a skit or reading a story.
"One of my queens decorated a cake on stage, and she won the pageant,” Wagner recalled. “A lady’s going to be showing her quilting at this pageant.”
Seventeen contestants will compete in four categories - talent, modeling, judges’ interviews, and personal philosophy. The contestants are from all over Texas, including Waco, Arlington, Lindale, Sulphur Springs, and Gladewater.
Jan Gray, of Sulphur Springs, is one of them, and this is her second year to participate.
“This is totally out of my comfort zone, and as we get older, we need to push ourselves just a little bit more. We don’t want to end this life with the ‘if only’ or ‘what ifs’ so that’s why I’m here,” she said.
Gray also said the pageant has taught her something about herself.
"That I need to hold my posture better,” she said with chuckle. “Mama’s words were right: ‘Stand up straight.’”
She’s also made some friends along the way.
“We have wept with each other over our losses during the year. It has truly formed a bond,” Gray said.
JoAnne McMeans, Ms. Texas Senior Classic Queen 2015 and the assistant state director, also found some friends during her time as a contestant.
“It was a little scary at first, but there were so many other contestants that were very kind. I’ve made forever friends through the pageant,” McMeans said. “And even though I tend to be only slightly loquacious and very effervescent, there’s a very shy kind of inner child, and Peggy Wagner and this absolutely wonderful pageant have helped me to overcome a lot of that. I feel more self confident, and I feel like this has opened doors for me as queen and assistant state director to reach out to other ladies that need to remember their accomplishments and feel good about themselves. Just because we are 60 or a little better doesn’t mean that we don’t still have a lot to offer.”
A sentiment echoed by Gray who hopes more senior women will consider participating in pageants.
“Come out of your comfort zone and have some fun," Gray said. “We older people, we’re not just destined for rocking chairs. We have plenty of life left in us.”
The Ms. Texas Senior Classic Pageant will be at 7 p.m., Sept. 28, 2019 at the Holiday Inn at 5701 South Broadway in Tyler.
Admission is $17 at the door and $15 in advance.