Beauty pageant changes lives of Overtown girls

caines | 5/9/2013, 5:30 a.m.

Contest brings community together And the new Miss Overtown USA 2014 is . . . drumroll please. The Miss Overtown USA and Miss Teen Overtown USA pageant on May 11 at 5p.m. will not only be a beauty pageant, it will also be a night of hope, transformation and healing, according to Martha Whisby-Wells, the director of the pageant. It is more than just crowning these girls, she said. Its healing [them]. Our girls need it. To me it is a ministry. The participants who are among the ages of 18-20, competing for Miss Overtown USA and between the ages of 14-16 competing for Miss Teen Overtown USA all attend church, school or have once lived in the Overtown community. In preparation for the competition, the girls have attended workshops every Saturday, where they were trained in etiquette, self-esteem, health awareness, interviewing skills, public speaking and make-up application. Girls between the ages of 6-13, who have been named the Miss Overtown Little Sisters, also attended the workshops and will be recognized at the event. According to Whisby-Wells, at the event, the girls transform from everyday young women into elegant and glamourous women. She has already noticed transformation in the girls character. Although there could only be one winner, the competitors have developed respect and love for one another. She said last year all of the participants werent team players, so it was important that she encouraged the girls to respect each other this year. I wanted to bring some love into the competition and make sure the girls understand that we are all winners, she said. If one of us from Overtown makes it, then we all make it. The winners of the Miss Overtown USA and Miss Teen Overtown USA will be awarded a $500 scholarship, a crown, a sash and a gift bag. They will also go on to compete for the Miss Florida USA Pageant, competing against numerous young women all over the state of Florida. However, there are several other benefits of winning the crown. Marla Spence, Miss Overtown USA 2012, had many doors opened to her. Spence has been featured in two films and has participated and spoken at many community events, since gaining her title. According to Spence the experience has built her confidence, developed her interview skills and prepared her for the real world. My experience has been great, Spence said. Its going to be hard to give up my title. Some of the other awards, the participants are competing for are: the Directors Award, Miss Photogenic, Miss Congeniality and Miss Fitness. The participants will also be judged on their swimwear, evening gowns and interview skills. Whisby-Wells said the event is important because it not only uplifts the girls who are apart of it, but it brings the community together as well. Last year, several community members attended the Miss Florida USA pageant watching party at Jacksons Soulfood restaurant in Overtown. Local Overtown companies and churches have donated money to the competition to finance the winners scholarship or their registration fee. Whisby-Wells added that it is important that something beautiful comes out of Overtown because it is always looked down upon. I want to see the day that Miss Florida USA is born and raised in Overtown. By Malika A. Wrightmwright@miamitimesonline.com