By CAROLYN LUCAS-ZENK
As a little girl, Lauren Hickey always dreamed of sparkling crowns and princess gowns. As she got older, Hickey realized her pursuit to become a princess could actually be accomplished by participating in a pageant.
After years of wishful thinking, the 26-year-old Waimea resident decided now was better than never to enter. Hickey’s hunch proved correct. She won her first pageant last month when she was crowned Miss Hawaii United States and will vie this summer for the national title.
“The pageant has brought so much personal fulfilment,” she said. “I’m still unbelievably moved by winning.”
In the fall, Hickey began researching competitions and discovered the Miss Hawaii United States pageant — the qualifier for the Miss United States Pageant, which gained more prominence when featured in the “Miss Congeniality” film. Despite the short preparation time, she was not deterred. Hickey said she had no expectations; she just wanted the opportunity and experience.
“I knew that I might be competing against girls who have been doing pageants since they were toddlers,” she said. “But also I always knew and felt strongly that this was something I was meant to do. It was going to be exciting and worthwhile irregardless of the outcome.”
Held Feb. 23 at Leeward Community College Theatre on Oahu, the pageant had 22 contestants vying for six titles: Ms., Miss, Miss Teen, Miss Jr. Teen, Miss Pre-Teen or Little Miss Hawaii United States. Hickey was one of four contestants in the Miss category, which is for women ages 20 to 29, said Wendy Lea Talaroc, pageant director.
“We asked out judges to look for first impression, charisma, stage presence, excellent communication skills with a commanding presence, good personality and appearance, and a sense of humor, ” she said. “We believe Lauren has the ability to fulfill the title responsibility. She is beautiful inside and out.”
As one of six queens, Hickey will be tasked with helping with the pageant’s mission “to give a voice to those needing to be heard, lend a hand to those less fortunate, and be a compass for those daring to dream.”
Hickey will now represent the state in July’s national pageant in Washington, D.C. Besides the competition, the pageant has a close partnership with the American Cancer Society’s Relay For Life. Contestants also get to march the annual Independence Day parade and usually attend a baseball game, Talaroc said.
“I have never been to Washington, D.C., so it will definitely be an exciting trip,” Hickey said. “I can’t wait to meet the other girls and take my platform beyond Hawaii. Being born and raised here, I feel extremely blessed and thrilled to be an ambassador of the state and share the spirit of Hawaii. I hope to make our state proud.”
Pageants are more than glitz and glamour for Hickey, a jewelry professional for Hildgund Jewelry of Hawaii who also has a background in modeling. Through her pageant journey, Hickey said she witnessed the empowerment of women of all ages and the persistence of dreams. She learned poise and composure.
Hickey thanked her mother, Darlene Turner, for being her biggest supporter. She said her mother “put in a lot of blood, sweat, tears and financial sponsorship” to help make her dream a reality.
Hickey also valued the chance to promote the Make-A-Wish Foundation, an organization she first got involved with in 2006 with her sorority. After graduating from Parker School in 2004, she attended the University of Colorado at Boulder for four years. While Hickey did not earn a degree, she is thankful for her time spent there. Hickey added she does have a diploma from the Gemological Institute of America.
“With my sorority, I got heavily involved with the organization and had the privilege to see how it directly affects the lives of children with life-threatening conditions,” she said. “It was extremely rewarding and touching seeing the pure joy from a wish come true, as well as the hope and strength it brought.”
Both Talaroc and Hickey agreed one of the most touching moments of this year’s Miss Hawaii United States Pageant was the surprise crowning of a seventh queen, Chevelle Benitez, deemed Miss Hawaii Princess United States. Hickey and the five other queens met Benitez at Shriners Hospitals for Children — Honolulu, where she made a huge impact and touched everyone’s hearts with her dream to become a princess. The 13-year-old girl was diagnosed with spastic quadriparesis, dystonia, hypertonia and acquired thoracolumbar kyphosis.
“She is a great inspiration to everyone showing that no matter what, your dreams can still come true,” Talaroc said. “Chevelle will be attending as many appearances and community service opportunities as she can with her sister queens.”
The pageant will now offer its seventh category for people with disabilities and a dream to become a princess. Those interested should send a letter with their story, along with a photograph of them to Miss Hawaii United States Pageant, P.O. Box 316, Pearl City, HI 96782. For more information, call 888-5474 or visit hawaiiunitedstatespageant.com.
Email Carolyn Lucas-Zenk at email@example.com.