The children were nestled all snug in their beds, while visions of tiaras danced in their heads

Miss Ohio through the starry eyes of two young divas

What grandparent isn’t interested in spoiling and spending quality time with their grandchildren? That is exactly what I set out to do when I escorted my two adolescent granddaughters to the final of the Miss Ohio pageant. We all walked away with so much more than any of us bargained for.

I can’t say that I have ever been much of a “beauty pageant” kind of gal, but taking my little girls, totally changed my thinking about what it all means. This was our first experience at a live pageant and none of us really knew what to expect. The weeks prior, I stoked the flames of anticipation cutting out every tidbit of information I could find on the festivities and contestants.

When the Mansfield News Journal ran a feature on the contestants complete with photographs and individual bios, I took it home to the girls. My oldest, an organized intellectual, made up score sheets, placing the ladies pictures next to a description of their platforms and university attended. She generously made copies for her little sister to have as well.

I played the silent observer in the week of the Miss Ohio festivities and watched as they both kept updated on the activities of the contestants; the volunteerism participation, fashion shows, luncheons, and preliminaries. They made little notes on their rating sheets. Alex, the 11 year old compassionate one, decided cyber bullying was an important issue and she liked that contestants’ platform. Sydney, the 9 year old is all tap shoes and rhinestones, determined any of the dancers would do, the more flamboyant, the better. Two sisters, same genetic code, with wildly different personalities, likes and dislikes. This would be interesting, I thought.

The day of the pageant arrived and the girls took great care in dressing in their own sparkle and diva duds. Excited to enter the theatre right away, I knew they were afraid we might miss something, so we took our seats early. I was delighted to see that we were near the center of the theatre, just eight rows back. Sydney, was awestruck by the elegance of Mansfield’s historic Renaissance, staring up at the ornate ceiling, hand-carved embellishments, and dazzled by the crystal chandeliers. She sensed this was truly a special night and surprised me with her patient observations of all that was taking place around her.

The girls reviewed their handmade score sheets and watched people filter in with the posters of support ready to flash when their favorite contestant’s name was announced. They both giggled in surprised delight when someone tried a few cow bell practice runs. I asked them later what they thought of all the cheering and support from the audience. They both said it was a perfect way to give the contestants confidence and extra energy to keep up the great job.

Soon it was show time and the big night started out on all American note as the color guard presented the colors and Miss Ohio 2011, Ellen Bryan, joyfully sang our National Anthem. Suddenly, the tempo of the music picked up, and the lights illuminated 25 beautiful young women, dazzling in matching silver mini-dresses. Magnetically, my little girls were drawn to the edge of their seats tapping into the energy of the evening. They remained there the majority of the pageant. I’ve never taken these little ladies anywhere where they sat for three hours straight and didn’t ask for a break, a drink, or the time. Amazing.

From the dance numbers, to the talent, evening gown and swimsuit portion of the competition they loved it all. Well, most of it. They were not excited about the question and answer portion until they learned the moderator was Omarosa, someone grandma recognized from old episodes of “The Apprentice”. It then became cool to be so close to a celebrity. I was a little concerned when the pace slowed and videos were shown. Would they would start to fidget? No fears. When the moving strains of “What Faith Can Do” began to play with images of the Miss Ohio contestants and small children from The Children’s Miracle Network, I detected a tear or two on both sets of little cheeks. On the way home, I asked them what moved them in the videos. They both said the same thing, “They just touched my heart.”

There are no free rides in this life. A few days after the pageant, I gave them homework; a series of questions about their experience. The evening made an impression. Some of their answers were different in regards to entertainment and personal taste. But, when I asked them what Miss Ohio was all about, they said, “Girls working very hard to get money to pay for their college, helping people, and winning for the state.” College money came up in a few other answers as well, much to the delight of their parents. I asked them what type of girl they thought would make a perfect Miss Ohio. Essentially, they both answered the same way; a beautiful, smart, caring girl with a good heart.

It was a fancy night on the town for two starry eyed little girls. More important, it was a night of planting seeds for their future, showing them examples of how hard work, taking risks, and putting yourself out there, can produce some tremendous pay-offs. What better role models could a grandma ask for her granddaughters?

As for this old feminist grandma, I got the real message of Miss Ohio too. It came to me through the eyes of my own two little divas. They’re right. It is all about beautiful, caring, smart, young ladies with even more beautiful hearts, recognizing that through the opportunities, scholarships, and helping others, Miss Ohio is a great springboard for jumping head first into your dreams and making your own mark on the world.

The last question I posed to the girls, “If you tried out for Miss Ohio, what do you think it would do for you.” Alex said, “I could earn college money, care for others while I was Miss Ohio, and, looking beautiful is an awesome job.”Sydney totally nailed it. She said, “It would give me a chance in lifetime and maybe not win, but, I would have fun!”

Granddaugthers at Miss Ohio