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Leavitt crowned Miss Pahrump

After an arduous competition between 11 young women, professional judges from Las Vegas crowned Brittany Leavitt Miss Pahrump 2013 to a sold-out house on Saturday evening.

The pageant was held in the showroom at Saddle West Hotel and Casino.

Leavitt’s platform included a desire to start a Big Brother/Big Sister program here. She wanted to give back to her community. Her talent was playing the piano.

By participating, contestants for the 37th annual pageant were hoping to meet a number of personal goals from meeting new friends and gaining self-confidence to using the event to garner funding for college.

Director Debra Bowman said preparations for the pageant are exhausting but “the girls gain so much from it.”

“We begin preparing for this in May and while school is still in session, we only have Saturdays to practice.”

She said once students were available, the practices were held almost every day, graduating to total run through, “so we could pinpoint problems and work on those.”

Bowman said poise was the biggest issue for the young women.

The pageant has faced minor criticism from those fearing exploitation. Bowman said, “That’s the last thing we do here.”

Bowman has experienced what she refers to as “the pageant system” first- hand.

“I competed when I was younger. I lived in Boulder City and was recruited to compete for the Nevada spot in the Miss America Pageant. I wasn’t being recruited because I had a title. Anyone can enter the pageant.

“At that point, it becomes a beauty pageant. The contestants are expected to be a certain size with a certain body type.”

Drawing on that experience, Bowman said it’s the last thing she wanted for the pageant here.

“One reason we don’t do swimwear competitions is because this is not a beauty pageant. We won’t limit the competition because someone doesn’t fit a specific description.

“The closest thing we do to a beauty pageant is give an award for the most photogenic.”

She said the subject of a swimwear competition has come up at meetings in the past but she always says “no.”

Bowman said watching the girls gain self-esteem, self-confidence and poise is a reward in itself.

“It’s amazing to watch them grow as individuals, leave shyness behind and perform to an audience.”

“Some of our greatest successes come from those who don’t fit the stereotype,” Bowman said. “The judges know what they’re looking for and none of them look at the girls the same way.

“We’re always surprised at the results. We wish we could crown all of them.”

She said one thing explained to the girls when they enter the pageant is don’t be in it just to win. “If winning is all they’re in it for, we tell them ‘don’t do it.’”

Bowman said the pageant awards five places for each category.

Taking the award for most photogenic was Alicia Quiroz. The talent competition was won by Caeley Shoults with her jazz dance routine.

The formal and casual wear competitions were won by Hailey Mead and Leavitt took the interview along with the crown.

The first runner-up was won by Hailey Meads and second runner-up was Courtney Murphy. Miss Congeniality went to Kailey Murphy.

Bowman said the pageant directors also give an award to the contestant who has gained the most from her participation.

“We look for the girl who has gained self-esteem and confidence and who put forth the most effort. That girl was Jasmine Vill.”

Bowman said ticket sales will enable the queen and her court to go to Carson City and participate in the Nevada Day Parade. It will also allow them to attend the 1854 Ball in Virginia City.

The ball celebrates Nevada’s statehood and includes a reenactment of President Abraham Lincoln reading the proclamation.

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