by Joel FitzPatrick
On Saturday, Oct. 19, the Miss and Master Bootiful Beauties pageant was held at City Hall.
Hosted by the Little Miss and Teen Miss Woodruff Pageant, the event featured contestants of all ages in a variety of costumes and outfits.
It was far from a typical pageant, but that has been the goal of director Stephanie Neale for the past three years.
“No matter who you are and where you are from, anyone and everyone can do this and can win this,” Neale said. “This is for anyone, regardless of age, race or size. No one walks away empty handed. Each of them walks away with a crown and a gift. I want it to be fun. I’m all about motivating these little girls.”
A former pageant contestant herself, Neale wants to shed the label that can often be associated with pageants.
“Pageants have a bad reputation, which comes from when Jonbonet Ramsey was killed,” Neale said. “People see the bad, and not the good. Being involved in pageants helped me in job interviews, and helped me become the woman, wife and mother I am today.
“I’ve been involved in pageants since I was 26 months old, so my entire life. I was involved in the Miss South Carolina Teen and Miss South Carolina Pageants. I paid for college that way.”
While doing research, Neale discovered that the last Miss Woodruff to be crowned was in 1977.
She changed that by holding a pageant to crown a new young lady with that title in 2017, and the event has rapidly grown since.
“We had 15 contestants that first year,” Neale said. “This year, we had 53.”
Neale said that when winners are crowned in her pageants, they sign a contract because for the next year they are role models in the community. She wants those who wear the crowns to inspire future generations, and has seen the impact they can make.
“Little girls lit up when (former Miss South Carolina Teen) Makayla Stark visited Woodruff Primary School,” Neale said. “They get excited when they see someone wearing the crown. They believe they are seeing a princess.”
Former Miss Woodruff Neely Lambert has also proven to be a strong influence with her “Be The One” campaign and her success on the bigger stage. She competed in the 2018 Miss South Carolina Pageant, placing in the top 16 and winning the People’s Choice award.
“To say I was proud was an understatement,” Neale said. “God blessed me with sons, but I look at these girls like they are my daughters.
“We are starting to become more well known in the community, but we are always looking for help as far as sponsorships. It’s been a lot of hard work. But when I see how excited the girls get, especially the little ones, it makes it worth it.”