“I want seniors to know that they still have a lot to offer to society, and that they are still beautiful and they can still have fun,” Blount said.
And, a fun time was had by all, Sun., June 13 before a crowd of more than 600 cheering and adoring fans at the Lincoln Theatre in Northwest. Organizers said this year’s event attracted the largest turnout ever for the annual pageant for women 55 and older.
“It all started with the seniors at Israel Baptist Church in Northeast,” said Alex Padro, president of the American Classic Pageant.
“It was a very modest affair just with the seniors at the center and it just grew. Now with contestants from all over the city and with sponsors, we can have a free pageant here at the Lincoln Theatre...and that is just huge.”
Four judges rated the contestants on their philosophy on life, talent, and evening attire. The eight lovely ladies who represented most of the District’s eight wards showcased their beauty, sophistication and talent for the audience. They belted out tunes, danced, recited poetry and sashayed down the aisles and onto the stage with confidence and panache.
For many, it wasn’t their first time as a contestant in the pageant. But, it’s the fun and fanfare that brings them back each year. And, for the audience, it’s a chance to see these women in a different light. They’re widowed or divorced retirees, church workers, grandmothers or in some instances, great-great grandmothers who have proven that they can be the inspiring poet or sultry calypso dancer or the long-legged, swivel-hipped Tina Turner impersonator.
Former Broadway starlet, Faith models her evening gown for judges during the 10th anniversary of the American Classic Woman pageant at the Lincoln Theatre in Northwest, Sun., June 13. Courtesy Photo“Here I go again,” said Faith, 87, a former Broadway performer and D.C. Statehood advocate, who has thrown her hat in the ring for D.C. mayor six times. This was Faith’s second time as a contestant in the pageant. On both occasions she was named First Runner Up.
The crowd laughed when she introduced herself.
“My name is just Faith; so you can call me Just,” she said before she strutted across the stage in a strapless white beaded evening gown with a lace overlay and a satin fish tail that flowed behind her. She topped her gown off with a Grecian silver-beaded headdress. Title or not, Faith has distinguished herself as an American Classic, who always knows how to entertain a crowd with her bugle which she tooted to applause from an appreciative crowd.
Barnes said it was her third time as a contestant in the pageant and that she was intent on entering until she won. She is single, with one child, 12 grandchildren and four great grandchildren. She works as an administrative assistant for Council member Harry Thomas (D-Ward 5). Barnes performed a liturgical dance and impressed the crowd with her soft pink evening gown and shawl.
“I was going to continue to [compete] until I won,” Barnes said.
“This gives me an opportunity to let seniors 55 and over know that if I can do it, they can do it. But it is not me who did it, it was God and I thank him every day,” she said.
Now that Barnes has won, she will represent the pageant at events throughout the city for the next year.
“I am here to serve, not to be served. I love helping people. In my job, I get a lot of calls from people who are in need and I try to find the resources for them. Things are really tough and people need help. That’s what it’s all about,” she said.
Carol Mumin, who served a second year as a judge called the pageant an “interesting and fun event. I just love these women and the talent is amazing.”
Mumin shared the fact that Barnes was formerly homeless and that she recently found housing with a relative.
“There is so much that we know that others may not know [about these women] who have been homeless and the trials that they have overcome. They are phenomenal ladies,” Mumin said. Blount repeatedly thanked her supporters who included past winners of the American Classic Pageant, and other winners from the Ms. Senior D.C. Pageant, the D.C. Teen International Pageant, Ms. Senior Virginia Pageant and former first mother Virginia Hayes Williams, a longtime supporter, and the pageant’s first honorary queen.
“I wanted this event to be free this year so that you all could help us celebrate our 10th year of the American Pageant and my 80th birthday. You only get to be 80 once, and I hope by the time I get to 180, I still look this good,” Blount said. She has six grandchildren, 20 great grandchildren and three great-great grandchildren.
Blount is already planning next year’s pageant and urged guests to look for the date on the Lincoln Theatre’s website.
“Next year please come again,” she said, “but next year, you will have to pay. So feel free to come and pay at the ticket box. These ladies need your support.”
“When seniors get to a certain point, sometimes they don’t believe they have anything to offer anymore and their lives are almost over and they are just waiting to die,” Blount said. That’s not the case.
“They have a lot to offer to our society and to everything that goes on in our city. If we can inspire one senior, get seniors to get back out, get involved and get engaged in doing things for our city, then having pageants like this is all worthwhile,”