Daya Durham isn’t somewhere perched on a pedestal displaying pageant-world “pretty feet” during her reign as Junior Miss North Carolina.
Nope. This 10-year-old is planning her very own pageant for girls ages infant to 18.
“It’s a Memorial Day Pageant and it honors all military veterans and kids get to have fun,” said Daya, a fifth-grader at Sycamore Creek Elementary. “I’m actually very excited.
“I get to meet a lot of new people – and I get to just sit back and watch the pageant!”
Joined by her mom, Pamela Williams, Daya will host the Little Miss and Teen Miss of Wake County Memorial Day Pageant on May 17 at 2 p.m. at the National Guard Joint Forces Headquarters Auditorium on Blue Ridge Road.
It is a preliminary pageant to the Junior Miss and Teen Miss North Carolina state pageant – and a Memorial Day celebration to honor past and present troops with music, speakers, performances and pageant highlights set to a patriotic theme.
Pageant proceeds will go to Women Veterans Support Services, Inc., an advocacy and referral agency for women veterans in Durham, Orange, and Wake counties, and to Camp Corral, a summer camp for children ages 8-15 of military women and men who have been injured or killed protecting our country.
Registration for the pageant is open through May 10.
By Wednesday, 10 contestants had entered.
“Our goal is 40 contestants so we can provide the level of contributions we want to give to Women’s Veteran Support Services and Camp Corral,” Williams said. “We’ve got a good ways to go.”
Pageant contestants will be able to compete in categories of fashion, swimwear, beauty, most photogenic and talent. Winners of the Mini Majestic title for ages 0-6 and Grand Majestic for ages 7-18 will go on to the state Little Miss and Teen Miss of North Carolina, with assistance from the preliminary pageant organization.
Eight additional winners – top scorers the 0-18 months, 19-35 months, 3-4 years, 5-6, 7-9, 10-12, 13-15 and 16-18 divisions – also will be eligible to compete, without assistance, in the state pageant.Williams said she and Daya’s decision to focus their community service on women in the military shines a spotlight on the role of women in our armed forces that is rare and often overshadowed by a litany of things, from the horror of rape to the controversy over hair styles of African-American women.
Even more fitting, Williams said, North Carolina boasts the sixth largest female veteran population, with thousands in the Triangle and Orange County alone.
Daya doesn’t have to do the Memorial Day Pageant as part of her reign. She and her mom chose to do it after being encouraged to find a non-profit organization to support through community service.
“We picked Memorial Day, a day we can honor all of our veterans,” Williams said. “And we will have it every year, right here in Raleigh.”
This isn’t Daya’s first rodeo.
“Everything,” was Daya’s reply when asked what she likes about pageants and why others will, too. “I like how I improved my self-esteem, and I gained a lot of self-confidence in my public speaking, too.”
Daya’s pageantry began at 7 when she became Miss Tar Heel State Princess. The next year, she trained under Miss N. C. 2008, Amanda Watson Bailey, and won the 2012 Southern Elite Pageants’ Mini Majestic title. In July, she won Junior Miss NC, with accolades as the 2013 Runway Model of the Year - Preteen. Her photos made Model Source Magazine, Supermodels Unlimited and Wee Style, and she’s an extra in an upcoming Fix it in Post movie.
To makethe pageant is beginner-friendly, Daya recorded a video Wednesday to play prior to the pageant, “to help the beginners, so they know what they’re doing,” she said.
The Memorial Day Pageant is a first for Jenna Camptella and her daughter, Hanna, an 8-year-old at Hodge Road Elementary School. Camptella said the pageant is an effort to nurture her daughter’s “girlie side,” which is sometimes smothered by her parents’ interests in demolition derby racing.
“I want her to find as many outlets as possible to have something to look forward to and get excited about, keep her on the right path and be as fulfilled as she possibly can be,” Camptella said.
Chantelle Hedgepeth, an 11-year veteran of the N.C. National Guard, entered her 4-year-old daughter, Braceigh O’Neal, in the Memorial Day Pageant because she believes pageants empower girls like the military empowers women.
“It takes hard work and dedication,” Hedgepeth said of the military. “Pageants represent girls’ hard work for themselves to earn something for themselves. It’s also an outlet for creativity. They learn how to be a voice for something, and for themselves.”
Lori D.R. Wiggins covers the people and places of Midtown Raleigh. Contact her via email at email@example.com.