The Miss Magnolia pageant returned to its former glory Dec. 14, having been on hiatus since the 2009 crowning of Miss Magnolia 2010. Each of this year's 13 contestants appeared in both professional and evening wear as they exhibited their ambition and charm to the judges through a series of short speeches and interview questions. The event culminated in the crowning of the new Miss Magnolia for 2014 – Lyric Matthews of Magnolia High School.
"I felt honored as they announced my name to be the next Miss Magnolia," said Matthews. "I grew up watching the pageant and it has always been a goal of mine."
"Not only am I excited to be a role model and continue my service to the community, but I am proud to be 'setting the dream' as Mrs. Deborah Miller would say, for the pageant in the future," she added. "We want girls to be excited about the opportunity to be a representative of our town."
The Deborah Miller mentioned by Matthews is president of the Magnolia Community Foundation (MCF), which organized this year's pageant. While the Magnolia Chamber of Commerce has traditionally organized the Miss Magnolia pageant, MCF took on the mantle this year in order to bring back the previously abandoned community event.
"We have felt all along the community needed a pageant," Miller said. "It gives the contestants a chance to be on stage. If you had seen them in rehearsal, you'd see how much they've grown in just two weeks."
One such example of that growth is the pageant's runner-up, Jasmyne Olison. During a Tribune interview, Olison commented on her personal development through the pageant process.
"Literally, I was shaking backstage before I went out in front of the audience," she said. "All I did was talk to myself and say, you know, 'you look beautiful, you are beautiful,' … because I never believed it. The original reason for me to do this pageant was to try and get scholarship money to put myself through college, but it became so much more. It became something to help me overcome my fear."
Olison also decided to forgo makeup and heat hair styling when preparing to go onstage, in the hope of setting "a new standard for the word beautiful." Having recently discovered that she is the first black woman to have competed in the Miss Magnolia pageant, Olison hopes to motivate others to break barriers.
"Hopefully I inspire other ethnicities, people and women to step up and do things that they thought they wouldn't be able to do or that it's only for a certain group," she said.
The remaining three finalists out of the top five were Michelle Jonika, Michaela Stauffer and Kamiryn Winters. While they were announced and presented (along with Matthews and Olison) as top five pageant finalists, they were not ranked against each other.
The Miss Congeniality award (whose recipient was decided by a vote among the competitors) was presented to Victoria Renouard and the People's Choice Award (in which audience donations were used to tally votes) was given to Victoria Slater.
The Magnolia Parkway Chamber of Commerce, which is working with the MCF to book appearances for Miss Magnolia, has asked that businesses and events approach the chamber with opportunities for Matthews to make an impact in Magnolia. The chamber is currently working to schedule Matthews for engagements with charitable efforts like Pedaling to Success, which donates bicycles to exemplary young students.