By Denise DuBois
It’s time for Miss Alabama contestants to give it all they’ve got and leave it on the stage this week. For months, young ladies have been prepping for interview, talent and swimsuit competitions and putting their outfits together for what will be the biggest night of one woman’s life: the chance to compete on the Miss America stage in September.
Miss Smiths Station Ashton Leddon said she is most looking forward to seeing the friends she’s made from participating in pageants.
“When you get involved with pageants, you immediately connect with so many other contestants, so it will be an exciting week to share with them,” she said.
Leddon is a student at Auburn University majoring in early childhood education. She said being a student and preparing for Miss Alabama has its challenges.
“The most challenging thing I have had to do to prepare for Miss Alabama is make sure I am staying diligent as I prepare for every phase of competition. As a college student who is deep in her studies, it can be easy to push aside the pageant world, but I thankfully got on a scheduled routine, which helped me stay on top of the work that needed to be done,” she said. Her goal for the week is to know she gave the competition her best shot.
“I want to know that all the preparation I have done this past year made me feel as confident as I could ever feel onstage,” Leddon said.
Miss Phenix City Stella Kontos has similar sentiments.
“I am most excited to see what the Lord has planned and be reunited with my Miss Alabama sisters,” she said. “I want to bring home the Miss Alabama 2018 crown to Phenix City. I cannot wait to spend the week doing what I love while representing Phenix City.”
Kontos said the most challenging thing for her is learning to take breaks.
“It is so important to be dedicated to preparation, but it is just as important to remember to give yourself some off-time, whether that be just five minutes or an hour,” she said.
Both women will join 48 others on stage.
The Miss Alabama pageant will be at Samford University’s Wright Center June 6-9. Crowning the new Miss Alabama will be Saturday night. Miss Alabama 2017 Jessica Procter will do the honors. Procter was the Quality of Life Award winner and Top 7 at last year’s Miss America pageant in Atlantic City. The Miss Alabama pageant has produced remarkable young women. Before Procter, Hayley Barber was the Quality of Life Award Winner, STEM Scholarship Winner and won local, state and national Children’s Miracle Network Hospital Miracle Maker Awards. Before Barber, Meg McGuffin was fourth runner up to Miss America.
The pageants provide scholarships for women. “Its mission is more critical than ever in this time of inadequate funding for education in Alabama,” its Web site states. “The community service aspect of the Miss Alabama program propels contestants into arenas of prominence where policy is made, laws are enacted or changed, crucial funding is realized, and lives are positively affected. Contestants work for causes represented by their personally chosen platforms, which may include cancer research and education, organ donation, child enrichment and mentoring programs, senior citizen advocacy, arts and cultural organizations, and many others.”
Leddon’s platform promotes Easterseals, a therapeutic day program for children and adults with disabilities.
“I began my work with this beautiful organization five years ago. Over the last few years I have created two Easterseals pageants where those with and without disabilities can come together and experience being onstage,” Leddon said. “I have also created a children’s book that, once it is published, I will be able to take into different school systems to teach children that while we might all look different we each have a heart filled with passions and dreams. I think it is important to teach children at a young age that a difference does not define who you are as a person.”
Kontos’s platform is S.T.A.G.E.- Science, Technology, And Girls in Engineering.
“My mission is to recruit, retain, and reward females in the STEM career fields. This is accomplished through various speaking engagements and conferences throughout the year,” she said.
Preliminary pageants are kicking off this month. Miss Tennessee Valley, Quad Cities, Leeds and Walker County are in June. Miss Phenix City is July 7. The deadline for registration is June 30. Miss Smiths Station will be in September. Contestants compete in interview, on stage question, swimsuit, talent and evening gown.
“Be bold and go for it,” Leddon said to those who are nervous about entering pageants. “I was once that nervous girl who was afraid of getting involved with pageants, but the life skills I have learned through the Miss America Organization have made me realize that this is a program that girls should absolutely be a part of despite nerves.”
Kontos said the organization is so much more than just a pageant. “It takes you on a journey to become the best possible version of yourself while making some of your best friends along the way.”
For tickets to the Miss Alabama pageant, visit missalabama.com. For contest information for Miss Phenix City’s pageant in July, visit missphenixcity.org.