Story written and all photographs taken by the great Intangible Arts. Ed. note: This is my favorite one yet!
So here’s a few places you’d never expect to find me: At an NFL game, in a church, in a Turkish brothel, anywhere in Texas, uh… Disneyland or anywhere with loads of children, and in the audience at a beauty pageant.
But NO! Scratch that last one!
Last Thursday was the event to crown the new Mrs. District of Columbia and Mrs. Maryland America. The winners go on to represent their home turf in the national Mrs. America smackdown. And this ain’t no puny, teenage “Miss America” neither — this contest is for the married folk. The missus-es.
Mrs. Intangible and I had a fine reason to attend the event, since our neighbor was in the race, representing our fair neighborhood as Mrs. Columbia Heights. Who knew we lived next door to possible royalty?
Markette Smith-Sheppard, who worked her way through school and is developing a fine career in broadcast journalism, decided spontaneously a while ago to try the pageant scene. Why not? She’s fiercely intelligent and charming as hell. Destined for greatness! Story continues after the jump.
As attendees, our goal was simple: between Markette’s husband Damon, myself, and Mrs. Intangible, we intended to raise a mighty racket for Markette during the contest. Evidently the audience support for contestants has some influence on the judging, so there were massive fan-clubs of shouting supporters in the crowd, like the beauty-pageant equivalent of soccer hooligans. Except without the chair-throwing and the beer and the cracked ribs. Anyway:
The event was held at Frederick Community College in the distant north of Maryland. At first it seemed weird to have combined the DC and Maryland contests, but then it was obvious: There were eleven contestants from Maryland and just three from DC.
Markette’s DC competitors consisted of Angel Taylor (Mrs. Capitol Hill, center) and Shannon Ely (Mrs. Union Station, right)…. WAIT-a-MINIT….. “Mrs. Union Station”?!??! That’s not considered a neighborhood now, is it? It’s a friggin’ building! Why not Mrs. Postal Museum or Mrs. Bureau of Labor Statistics Headquarters? Not her fault, I guess, but wow.
There were the typical rounds of catwalk-style fashion strutting across the stage, in swimsuit, evening gowns, sassy poses with sunglasses, etc. And Markette aced all that like a champion. But one area where her media training and natural poise came through was the interview & speaking bits. Mrs. Capitol Hill and Mrs. Union Station did well too, but by now, we figured this damned contest was IN THE BAG.
Markette’s platform was one of youth empowerment, involving a locally-based charity called KaBOOM!. It’s a group that builds playgrounds in what they call “child-rich, playground-poor” neighborhoods. Markette worked with them during the installation of a new playground in Southeast a few years back, and she’s maintained ties with the organization ever since. Righteous!
So yes: the pageant! Obviously most folks were there to support the Maryland ladies, but we kept up the rowdy noise whenever Markette appeared on stage. And in the end, she nailed the win. Mrs. Columbia Heights came to town and TOOK IT.
This means she gets to represent DC in the nationally televised Mrs. America contest, which will be held this August in Tucson. So when that show airs, I expect ALL OF YOU to make an insane racket at your television to support our First Lady of Class and Style. That’s right.
It was great fun, despite the weird, alien nature of the whole scene. As enjoyable as it was to see Markette win the day, there were several moments of profound confusion. I couldn’t bear the surreal, canned banter between the two hosts: a Barbie-doll-like former Mrs. Maryland, and a guy that could pass for Ronald Reagan’s shorter brother. He had a well-trained speaking voice but he couldn’t read aloud to save his life. Much flubbing in reading questions on cards, etc.
Speaking of the questions: With this being a contest of character and style between the women, why are so many of the interview questions about glorifying the husbands? I spent the whole time alternating between freaking out at the strangeness of it all, and cheering on Markette. It was quite a time.
Mrs. Intangible and I spent the long drive home in deep conversation about the true nature of beauty. In some cases, I’ve gotta wonder about this “eye of the beholder” I keep hearing about. The contestants in Frederick all fell neatly into two categories: The natural and the freakishly un-natural. Some were lovely and charming, and others were absolutely FRIGHTENING.
These are all “beauty queens” right? So why must some of them be utterly embalmed in makeup and hairspray and forcing that “smile” into a nightmare grimace, looking like a barking mad demon with huge teeth under those eccentric, over-plucked eyebrows forming deadly arches of shock above THOSE EYES, rendering the poor creatures into a squadron of napalmed clowns… Yes, some of these ladies came off just a bit “forced.” Others, like our own Mrs. Columbia Heights, were refreshingly human and rose above the crowd with ease.
And so, in one brief moment, lame-duck Mrs. DC Susan Sweat became the ex-Mrs.-District-of-Columbia, and our own neighborhood ambassador rocked the winner’s tiara like a superstar. Congratulations, Missus! You earned it!