Before Delta Zeta would raise the curtain to begin their 20th anniversary of hosting the Miss LSU-USA Pageant, a small reception took place on the first floor of the Union Theatre. As HD Photobooth Co. finished setting up to take portraits, members of Delta Zeta and Miss LSU contestants slowly began to line up to have theirs taken. For months now, they have been preparing for this evening, which is the largest Greek philanthropy event on LSU’s campus – supporting organizations such as the Starkey Hearing Foundation, St. Lillian Academy and The Emerge Center.
As their clear, glossy, black and white portraits came from the photobooth’s printer, the ladies gathered around one another and admired each other’s photos. Each one was able to have a portrait that captured themselves as the women they are, and their beauty they have learned to not only embrace, but to love.
Twenty-two women would walk across the stage during Sunday’s pageant, representing not only LSU but the various parts of the state and the U.S. For Deta Zelta and Miss LSU-USA’s Executive Director, Mary Frances Aucoin, it was important that the pageant would represent all women, not just those involved in Greek life.
“When a lot of people hear that Delta Zeta are running this pageant, they automatically assume it is for Greek Life members, which is not true,” said Aucoin. “We’ve moved our info contestant meeting to get girls to compete, from our Delta Zeta house to the Student Union. This would be taken place in more neutral ground which everyone feels more comfortable to come to.”
Most of the contestants, in fact, were not in any sorority. This year’s attendees ranged from members of LSU ambassadors, to a combat army medic, to LSU Bat girls and more. It was something Aucoin enjoyed seeing, as it helped break the stereotype of sorority’s and Greek life while allowing women from all different backgrounds to interact with one another, regardless of affiliation. For most of these girls, however, this would be their first pageant.
Hannah Perkins, a sophomore at LSU, felt this would be the perfect opportunity to get out of her comfort zone and to build her confidence, a trait commonly shared amongst the other contestants. “I got through two years of college, and I felt I hadn’t done anything spectacular and so I thought I should do something fun so I did skydiving and now this!” Perkins said. Others, like Cheyenne Fouts, wanted to show that LSU wasn’t just pretty faces but also, “there are women who will go on to change the world and become important members in our society.”
While the pageant is a competition – the winner will go on to represent LSU in October’s Miss Louisiana USA Pageant as well as other LSU sponsored events – the support and love that the women have for one another was beautiful to witness. Their admiration and support for one another showed, especially when it came to last year’s winner, Olivia Rackley.
“She is such a confident woman and such a great role model for not only the contestants, but also the committee. It really pushes us to try and help the upcoming contestants to be as strong as she has,” said Aucoin.
After Olivia was crowned Miss LSU-USA 2018, she would use her confidence to go on to promote a positive community for LSU’s students, as well as working directly with LSU’s Mental Health Center and the Title IX Office to help promote awareness to both rape culture on campus and mental health services. “The crown has opened up so many doors for me,” Olivia said, “It allowed me to represent LSU on the state level at Miss Louisiana, and many other great causes like Baton Rouge’s Children’s Advocacy Center, so it has been a great year!”
Before she passed on her crown to this year’s winner, Olivia reflected that the perfect Miss LSU-USA should be, “A girl that is confident in herself, smart and wants to find something bigger than her which is something that this competition is, it’s bigger than you.”
To a packed house at the Student Union Theatre, master of ceremonies Dixon McMakin, introduced the twenty-two contestants who dazzled the entire audience for two hours while they competed in swimsuit and evening gown. Once the top 5 contestants were announced, they were asked on-stage questions pertaining to today’s issues. The months of work put into this moment showed, and their confidence emerged with a glow. In the end, Olivia would pass on her crown to this year’s winner, Keighley Kelley of Madisonville, Louisiana. Kelley’s presence and strength wowed this year’s judges who no doubt had faith in her ability in representing LSU.
The women at Delta Zeta have created an atmosphere that is dedicated to supporting the growth and accomplishments of ALL women that attend LSU. These women should be proud of their hard work in putting on this production and the charitable contributions that have been given in support. As the years continue and the pageant comes and goes, Delta Zeta will continue to help women find the beauty and confidence they have always had inside them.