Age Has Nothing To Do With Beauty!
Why does our society push the theory that when women age they aren’t beautiful any longer? There are a group of amazing women who are proving that theory to be completely wrong! Mary Jane Wilkerson is one of those women.
When you first meet Mary Jane Wilkerson you will be greeted by a slender, attractive and poised 63 year old blonde, with a genuine smile that lights up a room. If you were told that MJ has held the title of “beauty queen” more than once, you probably wouldn’t be too terribly surprised.
The part of the story that might surprise you a bit, is that her titles in the pageants came in 2016 and 2017! MJ was Ms. Senior San Diego 2016, Ms. Senior Palm Springs 2017, and Ms. Senior California of America 2017. As the title holder for Ms. Senior California, Mary Jane also competed in the National Ms. Senior America competition held in New Jersey, October 2017.
Meeting Another “Queen”
Our paths first crossed when we somehow connected through facebook a few short months ago. One of those “friend” connections that sometimes happen, because you have mutual friends, and a particular post catches your eye. The one that caught my eye was MJ holding a coffee cup, which said “It’s Good to be Queen.” Well, needless to say, as The Queen of Damn Near Everything I NOTICE when there is other “royalty” present!
MJ definitely falls into the category of “royalty.”
I wasn’t really very aware that “Ms. Senior” competitions existed until a few years ago. When I did hear about them, I told my cohort in crime……. Stella that she should compete! I’m of the personal opinion that there are few- if any- other 73 year olds who could begin to hold a candle to Stella. That was about as far as my knowledge of the competitions went!
Then MJ crossed my path, and I wanted to know more. I noticed on Mary Jane’s page that there was going to be the pageant for Ms. Senior California 2018. That would be MJ’s last event a reigning “queen,” so I asked when and where it was being held, and off I went.
All “Beauty Queens” Are Not Barbie Dolls!
Contestants in the “Ms. Senior” competitions must be 60 years or older.. The competition is FAR more than a “beauty contest”- as the contestants are judged on talent, an intensive interview with the judges and their poise on the stage. I was pleasantly surprised when we arrived at the competition to see that the 2018 contestants weren’t all skinny-minny, perfect Barbie Doll types who had had numerous plastic surgery and botox procedures to form them into the perfect woman. In fact, I was pleasantly surprised to see women of different sizes, shapes, ethnic groups and styles! Gray hair wasn’t forbidden, nor were a few well earned laugh lines and “wisdom wrinkles!”
I was very impressed with the level of talent the women showed, although not really surprised. When I arrived, I noticed a number of familiar faces, both on stage and in the crowd. I had seen many of them perform over the past few years in CCT (Christian Community Theater) at the San Diego Senior Follies. Singing, dancing, performing and being on stage isn’t new to any of those women!
I must say, I am envious of their talents, because I can’t carry a tune if I had 6 buckets lined up to do so!
Those of you who know me, know I absolutely LOVE long gowns, sparkle and bling! There was no shortage of any of that at the Ms. Senior California pageant in San Diego!
Finding the venue was quite a challenge, let me tell you. It was at The University of San Diego in one of the theaters, but finding that, once you were on campus just about took a group of Eagle Scouts or world explorers! There were no signs or anything to direct you to the right building. Lucky for us, we had left plenty of time to figure out the details, so we were in our seats long before the event kicked off!
After the festivities of the pageant, I asked Mary Jane if we could meet one day soon for lunch, and if she would share some of her experiences with being a senior beauty pageant winner. She was more than willing, so we decided to meet for a delicious lunch at Red O in the UTC area.
MJ Took Charge of Her Life & Health
Mary Jane, who is a health and wellness coach with OPTAVIA, shared with me her story of having lost almost 60 pounds a few years ago. Her husband, Allen, lost 40 at the same time. MJ’s story wasn’t that different from many of ours. After being very physically active for most of her life, MJ took a job in the mortgage industry. Long work days sitting in front of a computer, along with the “grab and eat” lifestyle that goes along with those long work days resulted in a few pounds here, a few pounds there, until WHAM, suddenly that body doesn’t quite look like you want it too. When MJ’s daughter was going to get married, she wanted to lose weight in the 6 months she had, but she didn’t seem able to trim down. So, she attended her daughter’s wedding an unhappy size 16. MJ’s stepdaughter had suggested (many times) she get on the “Take Shape for Life” program (OPTAVIA’s former name), but it was a while before she jumped on board, and found it to be the perfect solution to not only lose weight, but to get in the best shape she’d been in in years. That is how Mary Jane became a Health and Wellness coach, wanting to share with others the success she had found in her journey.
So, now slim, trim and in fighting shape, MJ was one of the talented women in Christian Community Theater, entertaining audiences every year at the SD Senior follies. Many of the women involved in CCT had also been contestants (and winners) of previous Ms. Senior competitions, and encouraged Mary Jane to compete, so finally she decided to give it a try. After all, as she said to me “If your dreams don’t scare you, they aren’t big enough.”
Her first competition was Ms. Senior San Diego 2016. She competed in the State pageant that year and took First Runner-up. Then she competed again, this time in in Ms. Senior Palm Springs 2017, where she won. And once more competed in the State pageant, where she was crowned, Ms. Senior California of America 2017.
When I asked MJ if there was any of the horrible cattiness and back-biting that you hear about in beauty pageants, she said no. In fact, she described the all the pageant ladies as “Lovely”, especially at the National Senior America pageant as one of her favorite experiences ever. She said that the women she met on the national level are what she would consider, “friends for life.” Accomplished, friendly, beautiful and amazingly talented women. True “Women of Elegance” in her words.
MJ did say there was more work to all of it than you might imagine. Needing to come up with new ideas for the opportunities to perform, and the pageant activities take time. When you win the pageants, there are appearances which have to be made at area events, TV interviews and travel. There is also a performing group the pageant contestants in California become a part of called the Classic Divas, and they put on performances throughout the year.
Of course for me, the BIG attraction to becoming “Ms. Senior Anything” would be the wearing of tiaras. I am all about wearing a nice tiara! I truly believe that “every woman deserves a tiara” and I happen to be the proud owner of a number of them! And then there is yet another excuse for wearing a long gown. Hell, I’d wear a tiara and evening gown to the grocery store and car wash if they wouldn’t bring the guys in funny white jackets to take me away! (The voluntary wearing of Tee-shirts and jeans by any woman is beyond my comprehension! Give me heels, dresses, bling and I’m happy!)
Mary Jane did share with me that her business suffered due to her time away during 2016 and 2017, so she is now rebuilding it back up to “pre-pageant” numbers she previously had. You can’t take on coaching clients if you aren’t around to do the coaching! I have no doubt that MJ will be right back up to speed in no time. I love one of her quotes, “The Power to Choose is the Power to CHANGE, so Choose to be Extraordinary!”
I truly believe that we can choose to change our lives for the better, one step at a time, until we are leading what I call “a royal life.” I was pleased to find that Mary Jane and I held the same views on what women can accomplish.
Family Values Are Top Priority
Often, people look at a woman who have held a position like those MJ just had, and think they are shallow, conceited or unapproachable. Mary Jane is just the opposite of all those things. Besides her warmth and compassion, which is obvious from the moment you meet her, MJ is a person of strong Christian beliefs and values. Her husband, her family and her friends are her top priorities, followed by her strong ties to the community. MJ is one of the people who makes San Diego a better place by her presence here. Who would make a better “face of San Diego” than a woman like Mary Jane?
Besides building her business back up, and speaking at numerous events in the area, Mary Jane has recently started a new endeavor, along with two other former Ms. Senior California winners. They have a group called the “California Girls” and are performing throughout San Diego county at events. They love going into senior retirement communities, women’s functions and anywhere their talents might be needed.
You can find more information about the California Girls at www.BollesArtsInternational.com or call 619-807-3280. Find MJ and the “California Girls- Singing and Dancing on Facebook and “Like” their page! (https://www.facebook.com/California-Girls-Singing-Dancing-Entertainment-311668412734634/)