The Miss Alabama pageant may be most well known for giving us our first deaf Miss America, Heather Whitestone, but the pageant has both a rich history and an exciting future.
The Birmingham News started the pageant in 1921. In the early years, both Miss Birmingham and Miss Alabama competed for the national title of Miss America. Eventually, Miss Birmingham (along with Miss Mobile and Miss Montgomery) became local titles. Today, the pageant has a grand total of forty-seven locals–closed, open and university pageants.
It takes a lot of people and time to keep the Miss Alabama pageant going throughout the year, and especially during pageant week. Executive Director Nan Teninbaum credits many people behind-the-scenes for the success of the pageants.
"Our board of directors is most definitely a working board," says Nan. "Everyone has assignments. We couldn't do it without the parents of former Miss Alabama’s who pitch in and help."
Another group of people that help tremendously with the pageant are Miss Alabama alumni. Whether they are former Miss Alabama’s or local contestants, they are great resources for the Miss Alabama pageant.
"You have got to involve your alumni," says Nan. "Let them know that you need their help. A young lady who has been through the program will love to educate someone else on the values of her experience. I have found many times that the young lady who never wins gets the most out of the experience.
The pageant also has a large group of generous donors and sponsors that allow both the pageant and the titleholder to have the best year possible. It's clear that the Miss Alabama program is doing something right. With three Miss Americas to call their own, nearly fifty local pageants, and dozens of volunteers, it's easy to see that the organization is on the right track. According to Nan, their collective success comes from simple dedication.
"We get paid for our time in so many different ways," says Nan. "We wouldn't do what we do if we didn't truly believe in the program."
Read more about the Miss Alambama pageant in the December/January 2011-12 issue of fourpoints
Written by: Julie Anne Long. Photo: Danny Barrett of Pageant Works