SEABROOK — The next Miss Maryland could hail from Prince George’s County, now that one dedicated group of pageant lovers has brought a regional competition back to the area.
Jen Dewberry is the Executive Director of the new Prince George’s County Scholarship Organization, who hosted the first Miss Prince George’s County Scholarship Competition in at least a decade.
The point of the pageant, which was something of a passion project for Dewberry, is to showcase the immense talent Prince George’s County has to offer and to give women in the county a chance to represent their hometown on the regional stage.
“In pageants, Prince George’s County was not represented at the Miss Maryland level, and I have been enjoying pageants ever since I was very, very young and as an adult, working with young women, I saw it as a very viable way to earn scholarship money,” she said. “So I definitely wanted the rest of Maryland to see the quality, the intelligence, the accomplished, committed and dedicated young women that Prince George’s has.”
Putting the pageant together was a “definite labor of love” for Dewberry and her executive team. She said they put in a “gazillion” hours to make sure every aspect of the pageant met not only pageant standards but Dewberry’s as well.
“It’s a production. So not only are we putting on a show, there’s all the work that goes on behind that,” she said.
They basically started from scratch, Dewberry said. Affiliating with a non-profit requires paperwork, and then there is all the work of actually setting up the business – making business cards, obtaining a P.O. box, mundane managerial tasks. It was all worth it, she said.
The response was immediate with “a lot of interest” from the community in donating, volunteering and applying to be a contestant. In the end, 10 young women committed to competing in the pageant.
“It’s not just a beauty pageant. It’s a scholarship pageant,” Dewberry said. “And then there’s the time commitment because once you are the face of Prince George’s, there are places you’re going to need to go to represent the county. So a lot of young women were like ‘whoa, I didn’t know it was going to be that much.’
Miss Prince George’s County is a part of the official Miss America Organization and was held at Friendly High School on Jan. 28. Winners of the county pageant have the opportunity to go on to the Miss Maryland competition, with the chance to represent Maryland at Miss America.
In this inaugural year, the Miss Prince George’s competition had 10 contestants vying for the title of Miss Prince George’s County 2018 and Miss Prince George's County Outstanding Teen 2018. Each young lady participated in five different phases in the battle for the crown. Those phases included a personal interview, lifestyle and fitness, talent, evening gown and an on-stage question. Contestants also had to pick a platform to run on before the competition and had to speak on their social or community issue during the contest. Topics included bullying, grief management, and literacy.
This year’s Miss Prince George’s County is Desna Johnson, and the runner-up was Maris Higginbotham. The 2018 Miss Prince George’s County Outstanding Teen is Solangé Muller with Yamileth Salomon as the first runner-up and Vanessa Rennock as the second runner-up.
Both titleholders will go on to the Miss Maryland competition in June in Hagerstown and won not only their title but also scholarship money toward their current or future academic endeavors.