A married Myrtle Beach couple have partnered to share the achievement and positive rewards they have found in pageantry.
Through Belles of the Beach Pageants Inc., Joshua Johnson and Donnela Green-Johnson have begun a series of pageants across the state that will culminate with a state final in December in Myrtle Beach. Registration continues through Wednesday for The Sweetheart Pageant, a Grand Strand preliminary at 11 a.m. Saturday at North Myrtle Beach High School. It’s open to females from tots through age 20.
The parents of four children – ages 9, 8, 4 and 3 – they had tallied almost 30 entries midway through last week, Joshua Johnson said.
The co-founders and co-directors of Belles of the Beach each stressed important values they want to espouse not just for contestants, but their families, because children and their parents share roles in the whole process. The Johnsons also have had three online photo pageants, raising money for charity, most recently for Fierce Fallon ( www.fiercefallon.com) helping Fallon Emery, a Carolina Forest 10-year-old girl battling brain cancer, and drawing contestants from as far as the United Kingdom and Alberta.
Question | What prompted the start of these Belles of the Beach pageants?
Joshua Johnson | In early October, we began researching the pageant industry as a whole, plus looking at the whole region to see what pageants are out there. ... We felt there was a need for the young ladies of this area to show off their beauty and their talents. We started out with contestants from 6 months to age 19, but then we’ve had increasing interest and people emailing us. ...
For The Sweetheart Pageant, we’ll have a 5-month-old and a 41/2-month old. We don’t want to leave anyone out.
Q. | From how big a radius are families’ contestants traveling?
Joshua Johnson | Our farthest contestant is in Kannapolis, N.C., a suburb of Charlotte. In South Carolina, it’s Ninety Six [northwest of Columbia]. It’s a good geography lesson.
Q. | What benefits and bonding have you seen from pageants, as parents of contestants, and in seeing other families?
Joshua Johnson | I would say, 60 to 65 percent are first-time pageant contestants, with their moms. It depends on the age of the contestant. There could be a bonding, especially, through shopping for clothes, and ... working on a dance routine. Maybe their mother used to compete in pageants, and she would share her knowledge and experience from their her childhood. It’s just the overall quality time spent together, and with families and households today, that’s lacking sometimes. It brings parents and children for an event they do together.
Donnela Green-Johnson | Pageants can be wonderful for girls and young ladies. They are opportunities for girls to build self-confidence, and hone important skills like poise, public speaking, and social skills. Also, and most importantly, we believe that they learn how to win with humility, and lose with grace and dignity. ...
The positive power of pageants can stay with a girl her whole life. And we hope that we can be a part of that.
Q. | How do the Belles pageants stand out on their own, and what other additions and changes might ensue?
Joshua Johnson | We are different in portraying ourselves as a natural pageant. There are two types of pageants in the industry: natural and glitz. We want girls to feel comfortable about themselves. ...
We’ve had people approach us about entering their boys in contests. So we have a poll question on the Belles of the Beach Facebook page. If we get enough interest, then we’ll maybe add the boys in their own categories as contestants, from 0 to 15 years old.
Donnela Green-Johnson | If a pageant is run correctly, and the values are established – through emails and letters to parents about what is expected and tolerated in behavior – before pageant day even arrives, everyone should be on board. It should be a learning experience for children.
I tell the parents – in an email: “Your children learn about losing from YOUR reaction to their loss. If YOU behave with dignity and positivity, your child will mimic that behavior. It is also important for you to realize, as caring parents, that if you acted disappointed or angry, a child might internalize that and feel that you are disappointed or angry with THEM.”
So, we have tried to set the boundaries and the tone for our pageants (even our online photo pageants), stressing positivity and that we are learning lifelong moral values.
The crowns, sashes, medallions and trophies are just the icing on the cake.
Q. | In the late 1990s, a Miss Canada who had vied for Miss World let me hold her crown. At first glance: Who would realize how heavy such a crown is?
Donnela Green-Johnson | Yes, I was amazed at how heavy some of these crowns are. I am looking at crowns with Swavorski crystals for our state pageant. And we are also hoping to include some scholarship money for the Mini Supreme, Grand Supreme and Ultimate Supreme winners. Something to set us apart, something to make us different.
Q. | What part of pageants in general merits more appreciation, something to which people make a difference?
Joshua Johnson | The determination and the courage of these young ladies. Another facet is with the inner or natural beauty. ... That’s another reason why we wanted one of our older daughters to compete: She was very shy, and we wanted her to able to speak and perform in front of people.
Donnela Green-Johnson | As a teacher in Horry County, I have devoted my life to inspiring and teaching our youth. I saw being a pageant director, and offering quality, family-oriented pageants, as another avenue that I can pursue my dream of changing children’s lives. We shall see. But we hope!