By Claire Salinas
This year’s Miss LSU USA pageant boasted competitors hailing from places as nearby as Texas and as far as Alaska.
The event was sponsored by Delta Zeta sorority, with all proceeds benefiting their philanthropies, Alzheimer Services of the Capital Area and the Emerge Center for communication, behavior and development. And the competition was fierce.
LSU biology senior and Delta Zeta Caitlyn Crane tried to remain unbiased, but she did have her own prediction for the outcome of the pageant.
“One of our sorority sisters, Kaelah Cobb, she has a lot of experience and she’s very outgoing, outspoken, intelligent, and I think she’s going to go far in the competition,” Crane said.
The contest kicked off with a dance performance by the girls, followed by the swimsuit competition and the formal wear category. Entertainment was provided by the Tiger Tenors, an all male acapella group that pulled out hits like Bruno Mars’ “Uptown Funk,” much to the joy of the crowd.
One contestant in particular received lots of support from her fellow pageant girls. Both Kaitlyn Lacombe, a high school senior from Lake Charles, and Jennifer Jarreau, a Southeastern graduate student were in attendance to support contestant Ashley Barbier.
“We were actually teen Lafayette-USA queens together,” Lacombe explained. “She was the teen queen and I was the miss.”
Lacombe felt for what her pageant sister was going through.
“I don’t know how she’s doing it right now, because this is one of the biggest prelims in the competition, so I know she’s freaking out,” said Lacombe
Jarreau shared a title with Barbier and spent last year with Barbier representing and working together for the Miss America system and competing in Miss Louisiana.
“I’m looking to sit back, enjoy and watch her and her hard work pay off,” Jarreau said.
Tensions were high after intermission as the contestants waited for the announcement of the top five. Sara Reams, Elizabeth Heinen, Kayleah Cobb, Jessica Walters, and Ashley Barbier all made the first cut.
After an on stage question and the final walk of Miss LSU USA 2014, the winner was announced.
Fourth runner up was Elizabeth Heinen, third runner up was Sara Reams, and second runner up was Kaelah Cobb, who also took home Miss Congeniality. First runner up was Jessica Walters, and the 2015 Miss LSU USA was announced as Ashley Barbier.
Barbier’s onstage question related to the controversy over whether athletes should be paid by the university or be allowed to receive endorsements from companies.
“At end of day athletes are just like us, by getting meal plans, housing and getting treated like celebrities on campus, I think that’s enough, and our school doesn’t need to pay them,” Barbier answered.
Barbier had a lot of supporters going into the pageant, but she certainly wasn’t expecting to win.
“I had so many supporters,” Barbier said. “I’ve never had more than three people come to a pageant before, so to have them experience this with me was really amazing.”
Even after making the top five, Barbier knew it wasn’t yet time to relax.
“I was confident, but I was still on edge. You never know,” Barbier said. “For me to be that girl is an amazing experience and I am so blessed and I’m so happy I had this opportunity to represent my university.”
Looking forward to the coming year, Barbier is interested in getting people talking about a topic that is often swept under the rug.
“Something that I’m really looking forward to is increasing the awareness of mental illnesses. A lot of times people don’t want to talk about it or they don’t know who to go to. I think its something that needs to be talked about, and I plan on starting that conversation here at LSU,” said Barbier.
Barbier will go on to compete in Miss Louisiana USA this summer and will begin her year of duties as the 2015 Miss LSU USA.