Keep It Local

Anyone in the local pageant business knows that the lovely and talented Jocelyn Naylor was our Miss Fayetteville in 2014. However, I can say confidently that few Fayetteville residents outside the franchised pageant organization that sponsors the Miss Fayetteville Pageant know of her.

There is a reason for that. Naylor is not from Cumberland County. She is, in fact, from Fuquay-Varina in Wake County. She was crowned last year by the 2013 Miss Fayetteville, Victoria Huggins, who hails from the city of Lumberton in neighboring Robeson County. Both these ladies are extremely talented, beautiful and deserving of their title, honors and scholarships. They are just not from Fayetteville. 02-04-15-pub-notes.gif

On Jan. 24, during the 2015 Miss Fayetteville Pageant at Huff Concert Hall at Reeves Fine Arts Building on the campus of Methodist University, Naylor gave up her Miss Fayetteville title to another Lumberton native, the lovely, talented and beautiful, Comfort Johnson, a 23-year-old student attending UNC Pembroke. Comfort will represent Fayetteville and compete for the coveted Miss North Carolina title and hopefully, for the title of Miss America. This is many young women’s dream and we wish her the best.

The Miss America Scholarship Program has many merits and I applaud the amount of time, effort and dedication that goes into this endeavor by the contestants. What I have never understood is why this program and process on the local level seems to be so subdued and quiet in our community. I am not alone in this observation. As a media source, I have the same concerns as many others familiar with the organization. This is that the process being used to publicize the event and recruit contestants to participate is a flawed process. Flawed in its orchestration and perhaps unfair or at best, misrepresented. After all, what other reason could there be for allowing outside contestants to enter another city’s local event?

First, the program appears to be more selective in nature than inclusive. This limits participation and the number of contestants simply because they are not made aware of the opportunity. Second, the pageant itself is grossly understated and poorly marketed with little or no promotion or advertising. Matter of fact, the Miss Fayetteville Scholarship Pageant does not have a website and uses Facebook as its only source for information. Once there, you have no contact information, no “about us” information or information about the contest, requirements, scholarships or how to get involved with the process.

Third, advertising and promotion of the pageant itself is virtually nonexistent. The only publicity and awareness there was that a Miss Fayetteville Pageant was even taking place this year was posted online by The Fayetteville Observer ... the night of the event. The newspaper updated its post for the next day and then featured the winners in the Saturday Extra supplement.

Finally, last, but not least, our Miss Fayetteville should be from Fayetteville. Believe me, people are baffled and confused by that. For an entire year Miss Fayetteville will travel around the region under the guise of being from Fayetteville but, in reality, she cannot be an effective Ambassador because she really doesn’t know anything about our community. And, that is what is unfortunate. These young women work extremely hard to compete for that title. Sure, beauty, poise and talent are important, but so are work ethic, character, dedication, commitment and matters of the heart. We see and experience these traits from the contestants who commit to participate locally. By not emphasizing this “local” qualification in the competition, the Miss Fayetteville Pageant franchise owners are doing a grand injustice to the contestants and the communities from which they hail. They rob local communities of true recognition and the sense of pride and accomplishment that comes from supporting one of their own.

Again, this is not about the contestants, it’s a commentary about the operation of an organization that chooses to operate in a way that diminishes their own goals and objectives.

Over the years, Fayetteville has had several wonderful “local” young women win the Miss Fayetteville title. All have represented our community with beauty, dignity and style. Now, I’m not a pageant person so I don’t keep up with such things, however, in the last decade we have had several “local” Miss Fayetteville’s. Kinsey Boarts, Tiffanie Wagner, Katie Elizabeth Mills and Brooke McLaurin come immediately to mind. These local, homegrown queens received much local support and encouragement from residents, friends, family and local businesses and organizations.

Everyone took great pride in watching them work in our community, show up at community events, donate countless hours supporting children and working with local charities. I never really saw or met any franchise pageant committee members reaching out in support of these young women on their quest for the Miss North Carolina title. My point is that when the contestants were local everyone took pride, ownership and had a vested interest in the success of the young girls. They represented the City of Fayetteville and we supported them. Brooke McLaurin, who actually went on to become Miss North Carolina, and Katie Mills were two of the most devoted and hardest workers for this community. Again, I never saw much outside support.

I guess I’ll conclude by saying this: The rules are the rules. However, if our city name is going to be invoked, the community should benefit from it and the contestants should benefit also. Miss Fayetteville should be from Fayetteville or Cumberland County not from Lumberton, Raeford, Wake County or Harnett County. On the same hand, our local talent should not be forced to compete in other communities. Crowning a Miss Fayetteville should be a “big deal” in Fayetteville each and every year. Not served up as a nonevent or afterthought that surprisingly shows up in the Saturday Extra the day after.

Thank you for reading Up & Coming Weekly.

Photo: If our city name is going to be invoked, the community should benefit from it and the contestants should benefit also. Miss Fayetteville should be from Fayetteville or Cumberland County not from Lumberton, Raeford, Wake County or Harnett County. 

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