By Hannah Richardson
The 2019 Miss Louisiana Competition will be Thursday, June 20 – Saturday, June 22 at 7:30 p.m. nightly at the Monroe Civic Center’s WL “Jack” Howard Theatre. Four young ladies with ties to the Natchitoches area (from Natchitoches or hold titles in the area) will be among the 29 contestants.
Holli Conway, the current titleholder of Miss Louisiana, also has ties to Natchitoches, as she attended Northwestern State University. “Conway has done a wonderful job representing the state and representing our organization. She was a preliminary talent winner and Second Runner Up at Miss America. She has received thousands of dollars in scholarships since she began competing in the Miss Louisiana Organization. She has touched the hearts and lives of thousands across our great state over the past year and is a wonderful young lady who will do great things,” said Dewana Little, Executive Director of Miss Louisiana. Now Conway will pass on the crown and title of Miss Louisiana to one of the 29 contestants next week.
Katelyn Elizabeth Yopp, a native of Natchitoches, is Miss Pride of Monroe. She is the daughter of Jeremy and Elizabeth Yopp and the granddaughter of Verline Parker and the late Ray Parker and Randy and Louise Yopp. Yopp is a high school graduate of St. Mary’s and a sophomore at the University of Louisiana Monroe, majoring in psychology. She plans to apply to an occupational therapy school after receiving her undergraduate degree and eventually obtain her Doctorate of Occupational Therapy.
Yopp began competing in pageants when she was 11 months old. “I have held many fair and festival titles, represented the city of Natchitoches as a Natchitoches Christmas Belle in 2017, was a Christmas Angel five times and held the title of Natchitoches Meat Pie Queen for several years. I was also crowned Miss Natchitoches Outstanding Teen in 2014,” said Yopp. She competed for the title of Miss Louisiana last year at age 17, the youngest contestant for Miss Louisiana.
“It’s hard to pick a favorite [part of the competition] because I enjoy them all,” said Yopp. “If I had to pick one, it would be talent. I have danced for 16 years and I love getting to express my personality through dance.”
“To win the title of Miss Louisiana has always been a lifelong dream. As a little girl, I would watch the pageant on television with my grandfather, who is no longer with me. He would tell me that I would be on that stage one day. Just making it to this level is an honor and I would be honored to represent my great state as Miss Louisiana. I would love to promote my platform of scoliosis awareness across the state and to also help raise funds for the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals.”
Jourdan Waddell is Miss Northwestern Lady of the Bracelet. She is from Slidell and her parents are Rene and Paul Waddell. A senior at Northwestern State University, Waddell is a psychology major with a minor in dance. “I aspire to be a professional dancer, hopefully with the Radio City Rockettes in New York City, but after my dance career, I plan to go to graduate school to ultimately obtain a PsyD in Counseling Psychology and work with children suffering with mental illness.”
“She is an amazing young lady with a good head on her shoulders,” said Yonna Pasch, director of the Miss Lady of the Bracelet pageant. Pasch said she sees how humble and genuine Waddell is about her platform, which is mental health awareness, because it is so personal for Waddell. She attends over 20 events per semester and also hosted a mental health awareness event in February. The Stomping the Mental Health Stigma was hosted by Waddell to raise money for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals.
“My very first pageant was actually Miss Northwestern Lady of the Bracelet in September 2017!” said Waddell. “I never imagined myself as a pageant girl; competition dance was my extracurricular growing up. I came in first runner up that year, and went on to try for Miss Slidell, my hometown title.”
“Last year was my first opportunity to compete in Miss Louisiana, and I competed as Miss Slidell! It was my first year in pageantry, and I placed in the Top 5! It was such an amazing experience; I knew I had to go for it again!” Waddell said her favorite part of pageants is the talent portion. “Dance is my first love and I’ve trained my whole life to be a dancer. I love the opportunity to show who you really are outside of your private interview.”
If I were to win Miss Louisiana, I know it would be for a bigger reason. I am a firm believer in everything happening for a reason, so if I were to win, I know it would be to reach the younger community in our state to educate them on mental health. It seems to be a daunting topic, especially with younger kids, but as a child, I experienced anxiety so terribly that it affected my childhood – but no one ever reached out to me to explain to me what the feelings I was experiencing were all about. As Miss Louisiana, I would touch those lives that need that conversation.”
Miss Natchitoches City of Lights Alana Lewis and Miss Cane River Tori Grace Wilson will also be among the contestants. “I will say I am very excited to see these two ladies compete at Miss Louisiana,” said Greg O’Quinn, director of both pageants.
“They have worked very hard to prepare themselves for the competition and have been great representatives for our organization and the city/parish of Natchitoches. They have been working hard promoting their platforms within their own communities as well as Natchitoches,” said O’Quinn. “They have spent time visiting CMN hospitals, as well as other places to promote their social impact initiatives. They also helped kick off the Christmas festival at Turning on the Lights and the Christmas Festival parade. Lewis has been to the VA hospital and sang at the NSU/LA Tech baseball game and Wilson has been active with her fundraising efforts for Women in STEM when at Loyola University.”
Alana Lewis, the Miss Natchitoches City of Lights, lives with her parents, Mark and Cheryl Lewis, and two sisters, Allison and Averi Lewis. “I am currently a freshman at Northwestern State University and studying Hospitality Management and Tourism. Upon graduation, I hope to start a career in event management,” said Lewis.
“I started competing in pageants when I was 11 years old. I competed in the Haughton Middle School pageant. After winning, you could say that the pageant bug bit! I’ve been competing ever since, mostly in the Miss Louisiana’s Outstanding Teen Organization. After four years of competing, I finally won the coveted title. The Miss Louisiana organization has had such an impact on me, so I hope I one day get the chance to carry this honor.”
Lewis said this will be her first time competing for the Miss Louisiana title and her goal is to place in the top 10. “I am most looking forward to the talent portion of the competition. I am singing a song that is very near and dear to my heart, as it was my aunt’s favorite song. She passed away almost eight years ago to cancer. Not only am I singing her song, but I am also wearing her wedding dress. I can’t wait to share this sweet experience with everyone!”
She said if she won the Miss Louisiana title, she would be forever grateful. “This organization has given so much to me, and I would be honored for the chance to give back to this great organization!”
Tori Grace Wilson is Miss Cane River. She is from Texarkana, Ark., and her parents are Robert and Michelle Wilson. Wilson is a senior physics major, with a minor in mass communications, at Loyola University in New Orleans. “Someday, I want to become an Imagineer for Disney by obtaining my masters in Mechanical Engineering,” said Wilson.
“My first pageant was my high school pageant, ‘Miss Arkansas High School.’ After winning First Runner Up and overall interview as a freshman, I was hooked! I’ve been competing ever since.”
This will be Wilson’s second year competing for Miss Louisiana.
Her favorite part of the competition is the interviewing portion. “I love getting to know the judges and telling them more about myself and educating them on my Social Impact Initiative.”
“It would mean the world to me if I won the title of Miss Louisiana. Louisiana as a whole has given me countless opportunities and more importantly, a home. If I could serve as Miss Louisiana and give back even a fraction of what this state has given to me, well, that would be the opportunity of a lifetime.”
It’s no question that our area will be well represented with these bright young ladies as contestants for Miss Louisiana 2019! We in Natchitoches wish them all the best of luck!