American Classic Woman held its 18th Woman of the Year Pageant on Sunday afternoon, July 22, at the historic Lincoln Theater. The pageant, originally a local affiliate of a national competition, was started by Letha Blount to serve as an opportunity for senior women in Washington, DC, to show their talents and form a community of active seniors.
The pageant competition consists of a preliminary interview with the judges, a statement of the contestant’s philosophy of life, a performance demonstrating their talents and an evening-gown presentation. The winner becomes American Classic Woman of the Year, with the title “Queen.”
The pageant began with the contestants strutting down the aisles of the Lincoln Theater, through an audience of hundreds of spectators, before taking the stage. This was the eighth consecutive year that the pageant has been held in this historic venue.
The 12 contestants who entered the competition in 2018 represented a 50-percent increase over the number in previous years. Contestants ranged in age from 55 to 78. As they took the stage, each had to offer her philosophy of life as she introduced herself.
Most of the talent presentations involved either singing or recitation of poetry, although Mecca Trotter-Roser’s performance in prison stripes for her piece on the problems of youth did add some novelty to the competition. In the evening-gown segment, the contestants had to spontaneously answer questions posed by the pageant judges.
The pageant also drew a number of area entertainers who performed while contestants changed clothes between sections of the competition. The Iverson Mall Walkers, a senior dance group which has outlived its namesake, exhibited their choreography as they have in previous years. Rose Bullock, who won the American Classic Woman competition in 2009, belted out a rousing number. Elijah Butler, a young, spiritually focused mime, did a set based on the gospel song “I Won’t Complain.”
A highlight of the entertainment was the performance of Ray Apollo, a member of the doo-wop group The Orioles, who had the audience up and dancing to his renditions of rock and roll hits. The Honorable Walter E. Fauntroy, former DC representative to Congress and pastor emeritus of New Bethel Baptist Church, offered the song “Forever Young.” Finally, the youth dance troupe Studio 7 excited the crowd with energetic step routines and a dazzling light show.
Before the announcement of the pageant winners for 2018, last year’s winner, Queen Robin Riddick, made a final walk before the audience while her farewell address was read aloud. Her statement started with, “As a child, I was often told I would grow up to be – nothing, and that no one would find me worthy.” But her accession as Queen of the American Classic Woman of the Year, and the performance of her community duties with groups such as the USA Dream Academy and the Thurgood Marshall Center for Service and Heritage, where people “saw in me what I did not see in myself,” led her to recognize that she was actually – “A queen!”
Contestants were evaluated by a panel of judges based on their philosophy of life (25 percent of the score), talent (50 percent) and evening-gown presentation (25 percent).
Finally, the winners of the 2018 pageant were announced. Juanita Dickerson Peterson was declared Ms. Congeniality. Second runner-up went to Mary Ann House, while Paula Ayo Moore won first runner-up. Then Betty Entzminger was declared to be the new American Classic Woman for 2018.
Queen Betty lives in Ward 8 and was first runner-up in last year’s pageant. She has recently completed her associate’s degree at the University of the District of Columbia and plans on working toward a bachelor’s degree. A scholarship that she won from American Classic Woman Pageant and the pageant prize money will help her in this endeavor. She is currently working with the Opportunities Industrialization Center, also in Ward 8, guiding youth and adults in workforce development.
At age 60, Queen Betty is a popular model for top designers of Afrocentric wear throughout the United States. Her modeling credits include Essence, Brides for Today and other publications. She has also acted, her repertory covering “The Colored Museum,” “In the Line of Fire” and “For the Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf.”
As the 2018 American Classic Woman queen, Entzminger wants to use her contacts to spread awareness of American Classic Woman and network with other community groups that are working to expand opportunities for youth and adults. As an artist, her aim is to “inspire and motivate people through the arts.”