At 7:30 a.m. sharp, 19 women scurry into the grand ballroom of the Renaissance Dallas North Hotel. Some have brought their gowns, sparkling with sequins and pearls, to drop off in the designated dressing room across the hall. For this final rehearsal, the instructions are as follows: Bring your pageant shoes; dress casual; and absolutely no hair rollers. With lips painted in bold pinks and reds, they excitedly chatter through their routines and the next few hours of makeup and hairstyling. Stockings on, prayers prayed, and now up to 6 inches taller in heels, they line up to reveal themselves to a sold-out audience. Only one would leave with the coveted, bejeweled tiara and the title of Ms. Texas Senior America 2023.
The Ms. Texas Senior America pageant celebrates Texan women aged 60 and older living through what the organization’s website calls “the age of elegance.” They are judged in four categories: interview, philosophy of life, evening gown, and talent (including, in this year’s case, trampoline-boosted toe touches, a boozy I Love Lucy comedy bit, lively interpretive and tap dances, and dramatic monologues). The purpose of the pageant is not to rank beauty but to recognize senior women who are empowered by their age.
“We are what we were at 40 and so much more,” said Ms. Texas Senior 2019 and 2020 Joyce Brown. Past 60 years old is the time to face the “deep-guarded dreams,” as she calls them—the desires that you never allowed yourself to pursue. “Maybe the dream-chasing looks different now, but the possibility is still there.”
Terre Quinn, one of this year’s participants, is occasionally called the “baby” of the pageant at age 61. “There is a whole lot of life that seniors have, and we don’t have a lot of venues to show it. Our society focuses on youth and beauty,” she said. Many of the women, including Quinn, have never been involved in pageantry before. After all the performances and speeches come to a close, the group of 19 women lines up at the coronation, beaming and holding hands. “All the things we’ve been able to experience and store up through the years,” said Quinn, who left the pageant crowned “Ms. Texas Senior America 2023.”
“This is what we should be propelling our momentum from. … These should be the best times of our lives.”