By Jordan Houston
After a year of uncertainty, Arizona’s most elegant senior women are refusing to let the pandemic’s aftermath slow them down.
The Cameo Foundation’s 32nd Ms. Senior Arizona pageant is gearing up to crown its next queen on August 21. Following a forced hiatus last year, the foundation will crown its 2022 Ms. Senior Arizona, according to Ms. Senior Arizona Pageant Executive Director and former 2004 queen Herme Sherry.
The nonprofit organization will not crown 2020 or 2021 title holder due to COVID-19-related obstacles, Sherry explains.
“We are crowning 2022 this year,” she says. “The reason we are doing that this year is because they are doing a virtual national (pageant) this year, and some states chose to do it, but we couldn’t get in.
“So, we are going to go ahead and crown 2022 for next year.”
This year’s pageant, open only to women 60 and older, was originally slated to take place in January, Sherry says. However, the foundation was required to reschedule due to the nature of the virtual 2021 pageant structure. Tucson resident Ava Genung, who was crowned in 2019, is the reigning Ms. Senior Arizona.
Selected from a group of 20 contestants, the 2022 Arizona queen will go on to compete in the national competition next year, Sherry says.
Ms. Senior America pageant is a nonprofit corporation dedicated to enriching not only “the lives of seniors,” but also to encourage them to “tap their energy to enrich the lives of others.”
The Valley Vista Performing Arts Center, located at 15550 N. Parkview Place in Surprise, will host the August competition at 6 p.m. General tickets are $15, while VIP seats are $25. Proceeds from the event will also go toward supporting domestic violence survivors via the Cameo Foundation, Sherry says.
Ms. Senior Arizona honors the “Age of Elegance,” Sherry says, by embodying the motivation and inspiration of senior women, grandmothers and great-grandmothers.
More than just a “beauty contest,” the pageant seeks to reenforce the importance of self-worth, inner beauty and charm. It strives to offer older women a platform to showcase their achievements, talents and values, Sherry explains.
“Our pageant searches for a gracious lady who will represent the seniors of Arizona,” Sherry says. “We like to say, ‘A beautiful young woman is a gift from God, and beautiful old people are a work of art.’”
Contestants are judged on four categories: their philosophies of life, judges’ interviews, evening gown presentations and talent. The Cameo Foundation spends five weeks of rehearsal with the contestants prior to the big day, Sherry says.
“We work on them with their philosophies of life and make sure their timing is right,” she says. “Then there is the talent, which can be anything — we’re open to professionals but also to everyone.”
“Some people come in and say, ‘I have no talent,’” she continues. “And then I tell them, ‘You do have a talent, we just don’t know what it is yet — but we will find it.’”
To be eligible, contestants must live in Arizona for at least three months prior to the state contest, according to the Ms. Senior Arizona website. There is also a $125 application fee.
All competing contestants are given the opportunity to participate in the Cameo Foundation, a national organization comprised of previous contenders. Dedicated to supporting the pageant, club members perform throughout the state to raise funds to send their queen to nationals each year.
The local nonprofit works to provide resources to arm its members with the “needed expertise and self-confidence to maximize their potential,” its website continues.
“We get a lot of heartwarming things out of this and how it changes the lives of many,” Sherry says. “Some of these women are doing things they never thought they’d be doing over 60.”
Following her 2019 win, Genung has flourished in her extended role as Ms. Senior Arizona to continue to support the foundation, Sherry shares.
“Ava has been a great queen,” the 2004 pageant winner says. “She was in it three times and won on her third time. She’s been great and has performed in many places.”
Contestants are allowed to compete for the title three times — but no more than two consecutive years.
Genung snagged the top talent award for her jazz dance to a Motown medley, most photogenic and best philosophy of life.
For more information about the Ms. Senior Arizona pageant and ticketing, call 602-788-9556 or visit msseniorarizona.com.