Senior pageants allow contestants to refocus on themselves
Janet Standifer’s quote for the day is, “You are never too old to set a new goal or dream a new dream.”
That quote, by Les Brown, is descriptive of why she is competing in this year’s Ms. Texas Senior America Pageant on July 24 at the Doubletree Hotel by the Galleria in Dallas.
“I chose to compete in this pageant for many different reasons. One is that the platform represents my passion – it promotes healthy aging, mental well-being and focuses on the senior women,” the 62-year-old from Weatherford said. “Second, it gives me a sense of achievement and fulfillment, adventure and an experience that will be unforgettable. The journey alone provides so many opportunities to make amazing new friends – ones that I would ordinarily not meet.”
“Third, on a lighter note,” she added, “it gives me the opportunity to do the things I enjoy so much, such as singing on stage, dressing up in beautiful clothes, but more importantly, developing new relationships with others who have similar goals, which results in a sisterhood of sorts.”
The matriarch of that sisterhood is 82-year-old Syntha West of Aledo, a former pageant winner who is now a coordinator. She is thrilled about the pageant’s return to live competition as the world works to conquer the COVID-19 pandemic.
She recalled taking over as coordinator in 2014, when the pageant had fallen on hard times. It has since seen a consistent resurgence.
“I’m so excited, I’m about to burst,” Syntha said. “Every year it has grown, grown, grown to where it’s now like a Broadway show.”
Pageants aren’t new to Janet, one of Syntha’s recruits. Janet competed in her high school pageant and was one of the five finalists. She participated in the Ms. America pageant sector during her junior and senior years while an undergraduate student at Louisiana Tech University. And she was selected as second runner-up to Ms. Louisiana Tech, winning the swimsuit and evening gown competitions.
And while those were a while back, she has never forgotten the excitement that goes along with being a pageant competitor.
“I am having one of the best times of my life!” she exclaimed. “It is a privilege to be part of this pageant as a candidate because it follows my own life purpose. I also feel like a young girl again…trying on beautiful dresses and gowns, playing with hair and makeup, taking voice lessons and making new friends.”
Likewise, Syntha recalled the wonder of being a competitor – and what it takes to win.
“When you get in those top five, you’ve got to do something different, make them realize there’s something special about you,” she said.
As part of her talent competition, Syntha threw some glitter in the air. Then, she fell on the floor, totally blacking herself out to blend in with the stage by covering herself with a cape.
“Then I jumped up. Nobody else did that,” she said. “You’ve got to show that you own the stage.”
Even her philosophy on life stood out above all others. She said, “When I part this earth, even the undertakers will be sorry.”
“There’s a lot more to it than being drop-dead gorgeous,” Syntha added with a chuckle.
Janet’s talent is singing, something she has loved to do her entire life.
“It gives me thrills to know that I can continue to sing, which I love to do. I’ve been singing since I was 5 years old in a church,” she said.
In fact, Janet was in a band when she was younger. Herself, her sister, her brother, his girlfriend and another friend comprised the Catastrophe Five. She remembers traveling the country with them in high school and her in middle school.
“Probably the most memorable part of my singing career was at my mother’s wedding,” she recalled.
Both Janet and Syntha are here to tell you that pageants are not just for younger ladies.
“The pageant is designed to innately bring forth each contestant’s ability to celebrate their outer and inner beauty, elegance and achievement as senior women through the different competitions,” Janet said. “For the community, the participants demonstrate the positive aspects of aging with a positive outlook on life, and be a role model for women over 60, which is a valuable contribution to the community through the appearances at nursing homes, retirement centers, schools, parades and anywhere our winner can exhibit strong role models for all ages.”
Syntha added, “You ask yourself, ‘I’ve been the best mother, best wife, what do I do next?’ This is what you do!”
And while the minimum age for the pageant is 60, there is no maximum age.
“I was in a pageant where one of the contestants was 100 years old,” Syntha said. “I know I have maybe two this year in their 80s.”
Competing at the pageant is only part of the work. More effort goes into the preparation for the pageant itself. Leading up to the Ms. Texas Senior America events, Janet had to:
• Pay the non-refundable $150 entry fee to Ms. Texas SeniorAmerica.
• Provide a copy of driver’s license for proof of Texas residency.
• Complete the required judges pages for judges interview.
• If a woman is a serious volunteer for others, complete the Mary Francis Hansen Community Service Award selected by Ms. Texas Senior America Board.
Once the applicant is accepted, the fun and preparation begins seriously. While waiting anxiously to take part in the events, participants select and practice their talent, obtain the wardrobe for the interview, talent and evening gown competitions, then search for the appropriate attire to wear to the pageant workshop and tea.
The pageant week begins on a Thursday and ends on a Sunday, which encompasses many meetings, rehearsals, the formal interview, and, of course, the onstage pageant.
The current Ms. Texas Senior America, Joyce Brown from Flower Mound, will be on hand to pass the crown to this year’s winner. She says the experience has been life changing.
“When I first decided to participate in the Ms. Texas Senior America pageant,” said Joyce, “I was still searching for what life could be after age 60.
“After working in corporate America for 38 years, I knew I wanted to get actively involved in something after I retired but had no idea what that could be,” she said.
“When I attended my first pageant event; I met all the beautiful women, some in their 80s who were still performing (tap dancing, twirling batons, singing, dancing, etc.) and active in their community, I knew I had found a new home. I have never looked back! These women have become my mentors. My life now has purpose, and I’m living my best life after the age of 60.”
And what’s the biggest reward for coordinator Dr. Syntha West?
“I awaken every day with this knowledge, I’m helping another person 60 and better realize how great they are,” she said.
Janet agreed, “I’m a wife, a daughter, a mother, an employee, I own my own company (J Standifer Consulting – Dementia in Perspective), I do all these things, but this brought me back to me. I’m very comfortable in my own skin.”
And Janet wouldn’t hesitate at all to do it again. In fact, she is looking forward to it, she said.
“Absolutely! I plan to be part of this pageant in some capacity in the future,” Janet said.
“I believe service is most important because what we do for others is much greater than what we do for ourselves. My life’s mission is to leave a positive mark in the community by raising awareness and increasing knowledge about aging gracefully and improving the care for those living with dementia by providing dementia education and training.
“I plan to continue to dedicate my time and efforts to make a difference. The pageant provides that opportunity to continue my journey and to accomplish my life’s mission.”
For information on competing in next year’s Ms. Texas Senior America Pageant, contact Dr. Syntha West at 817-349-0284 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.