York County represented in national Ms. Senior America pageant
In room 5817 of the Hershey Lodge, on a rainy Wednesday morning, three Ms. Senior America competitors listened to country music as two makeup artists — who came up from Tennessee — applied mascara and blush.
York County native Delma Rivera, who only had an hour drive compared to her pageant sisters, arrived before the sun rose with her Ms. Pennsylvania Senior sash proudly pinned to her dress.
Before even thinking about anything else, Rivera ran to hug Maine's Sherry Sivret — a friend she made during her pageant journey. While the two will compete against one another during the three-day competition, they don't consider themselves rivals.
"Sherry is my partner in the line," Rivera said, referring to the group dance performed at the start of the competition. "We've learned our dance steps together."
Jewel-studded pageant crowns, three-inch heals and dazzling gowns turned the once-normal hotel room at Hershey Lodge into a one-stop pit stop for the state queens.
But it's not just about the expensive, material goods — and Rivera would argue that the individual stories of each woman are just as valuable.
Take Tennessee makeup artist Susan England, for instance. England, who wore a "Girls Rule the World" night shirt while bouncing between Rivera and Sivret with a makeup brush and mirror, opened up about her experience with pageants Wednesday.
England was diagnosed with stage three uterine cancer in 2014. In just 14 days, she lost all her hair and switched to wigs. It wasn't until her hairdresser pushed her to run for Ms. Tennessee Senior Pageant that her confidence bloomed.
She got first-runner up at Ms. Tennessee Senior in 2018 before winning the state title a year later.
"This is my time," England said, encouraging her fellow pageant sisters. "Shine like the biggest Christmas bulb you can shine."
Now, England takes the trip to nationals to help other pageant queens with their makeup and calm anxious nerves — no matter how far.
"Sometimes it may be thought that the sisterhood is something hokey or that it doesn't really exist," Rivera said. "But people have really been boosting one another and encouraging one another, and that's been a really wonderful part of this experience."
The Ms. Senior America Pageant competition is slated from Wednesday through Friday at Hershey Lodge and Convention Center. Tickets are on sale now and can be purchased by visiting https://mssenioramericallc.com.
The competition includes four judging categories: a private interview, a philosophy of life speech, talent performance and an evening gown competition meant to showcase grace and poise.
For the talent portion, Rivera said it was important to tap into her heritage and perform the bomba, a traditional Puerto Rican dance with origins rooted in the island's history of African slavery.
As the state winner, Rivera will continue carrying out responsibilities until June 2023 — including visits to nursing homes and speaking on the philosophy and message of Ms. Senior National Pageant.
"I obviously want to do my best here, I want to represent Pennsylvania," Rivera said. "I do feel with the experience I had at the state pageant that that really helped me for the national pageant."
— Reach Tina Locurto at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @tina_locurto.