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Gowns and Crowns: Local contestants gear up for pageants

By Susan Shinn Turner for The Salisbury Post

Two Rowan County beauty queens are busy preparing for state competition in June, while balancing the demands of school and family.

Mary Scott Norris, a senior at Catawba College, is Miss Rowan County. She is the daughter of Tim and Leigh Ann Norris. Taylor Loyd of Mooresville is Miss Rowan County’s Outstanding Teen, and she is the daughter of Ashton and Cinamon Loyd. Both competitions are part of the Miss America Organization, the nation’s largest provider of scholarship assistance to young women.

Norris and Loyd admit that while most people typically think of beauty pageants as just swimsuit and evening gown competitions, the four points of the Miss America crown symbolize style, success, service and scholarship.

“Any title holder will tell you that the two most important parts are service and scholarship,” says Loyd, 15. “That’s a huge piece of it.”

Loyd first started competing at age 13. Her parents met at a pageant event, but her mom — who competed in Miss North Carolina in 1992 and was crowed Mrs. North Carolina in 1999 — never pushed her into it.

“It’s fun to see her be passionate about it,” Cinamon Loyd says. “She’s a lot better than I was at it.”

Loyd has been singing since age 4, and wanted to continue honing her talent while concentrating on community service and public speaking.

“You gain self-confidence to be equipped for the workforce or for whatever life throws at you,” Loyd says.

In preparing for the behind-the-scenes personal interviews, Loyd says, “you have to know yourself inside and out. I’ve matured a lot faster, and it teaches you to manage your time.”

Loyd says she spends most of her free time in preparation. “I am committed and passionate about it.”

Both Loyd and Norris keep up with current events — again, as a way to prep for interviews.

For her talent, Loyd sings operatic classical music, although she likes all types of music. Her dad also began singing at age 4, and they often sing together at church and special events.

Loyd says she’s found a sisterhood since entering competition.

“You have a pageant family,” she says. “They understand the level of commitment it takes. You only have a small window of eligibility, so you really want to make your time count. The sacrifice takes a little bit of getting used to, but it’s worth it.”

Both young women would love to win at the state level. The Miss America’s Outstanding Teen national competition takes place in July in Orlando, with Miss America in September at its longtime location of Atlantic City, N.J.

Loyd’s platform is Healing Hearts Through the Arts, and she enjoys singing for children and at nursing homes. She’s been amazed to see patients with dementia sing along to selections such as “Summertime.”

She’s sung the “Star-Spangled Banner” at area sporting events, and enjoys meeting people wherever she goes, she says. “I love to be able to pack up my songs and go. Music is something that transcends all generations.”

She’s also a huge theater-lover, and is appearing in the production of “Grease” at her school, Woodlawn School in Mooresville. Loyd’s younger brother, Preston, 12, is a fifth-grader who loves karate.

Norris’ platform is “Go With Your Glow: Skin Cancer Awareness & Prevention.” At present, she’s wardrobe shopping and finishing up her last semester at Catawba. She’s decided to put her job search on hold until after the competition.

“Miss North Carolina would be the ultimate job,” Norris says. “I’m just going to wait and see what happens. Right now, I’m just focused on it to see how far I can go.”

Norris began competing in Miss Rowan County as a college freshman, and was named first runner-up twice before being crowned in November. She entered this fall at the last minute.

“It was the first pageant I ever saw,” says Norris, who performed there with her dance team. “I could see how much the girls had grown, and I could see how involved they were in community service. I wanted that to be me.”

She adds, “People think pageants are all about how you look, but you don’t see all the effort the girls take to get to that point. It’s been a very good experience for me.”

Norris says she is excited and nervous about the state competition. “I just want to go in and be completely prepared, and enjoy every second of whatever happens next.”

Norris, who is an intern at the Convention and Visitors Bureau and also babysits, spends any free time being with family and friends, working out, and practicing tap dance, her talent. She would like to pursue a career in pharmaceutical sales. Her younger brother, Chris, 18, is a freshman at UNC-Wilmington.

“I would encourage young girls to get involved and do research on what pageants are all about,” she says. “It’s a great resume builder.”

In the coming weeks, both young women will be making appearances in Rowan County. You can keep up with their schedules through their facebook pages: Miss Rowan County 2017: Mary Scott Norris, and Miss Rowan County’s Outstanding Teen – Taylor Loyd.


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