For two Murray State women, 2014’s crowning achievements came in the form of literal crowns.
Shelby Beloate, sophomore from Puryear, Tenn., was crowned National American Miss Tennessee in May of last year, coincidentally at the same pageant event at which she met Natalie Lawrence, junior from Wickliffe, Ky.
Lawrence had been crowned National American Miss Teen Kentucky earlier in the same month and was there to volunteer her help to her Southern counterparts. Beloate had heard of Lawrence through her hairdresser and makeup artist and made her mind up to meet her.
Beloate was a freshman at the University at the time and Lawrence had enrolled and was set to transfer to Murray State in the fall.
Once they met, their friendship bloomed from there. When August rolled around, Lawrence went through sorority recruitment and joined Alpha Omicron Pi, the same sorority Beloate is a part of. Now, the two are joined not only by their crowns, but also by the community service and values upheld by their organization.
National American Miss Pageants were described by both women as conservative, a characteristic most obviously seen in their lack of swimwear competitions and in their major focus on community service.
“National American Miss focuses on community service, interview, introduction – which is like a 30-second kind of spiel about yourself,” Lawrence said. “And then you have evening gown.”
While there are not any required duties to be carried out during their reigns, both women have taken on platforms that affect them on a personal level.
“(The city of Union City, Tenn.,) had this Operation 300 memorial ride for Aaron Vaughn,” Beloate said. “He was a Navy Seal and he was killed while he was overseas, fighting for our country. He was a big bike rider, so he loved riding motorcycles. And I thought that was really neat because my brother, Dillon, he goes here and he’s in the ROTC program and he’s in the Army so whenever I can do something to help with any Army or military stuff I do – it’s really close to my heart.”
Beloate’s father presented the idea to her after seeing the memorial ride advertised at a local Harley-Davidson dealership.
Lawrence’s service platform was also unique – she coordinated the Miss Purple Angel Pageant in her hometown to raise money for Alzheimer’s disease awareness.
Three years ago, her grandfather passed away from the disease and in October, Lawrence will honor his memory by donating the proceeds of the benefit pageant, $2,000, to the Alzheimer’s Association.
In addition to supporting their platforms, both women were invited to compete on the national level in Anaheim, Calif., over the week of Thanksgiving in November. Though competing in separate divisions – Beloate in the Miss division and Lawrence in the Teen division – the women and their families made the trip together and shared a house during their stay.
Beloate’s trip proved fruitful as she made it into the top 10 in the Miss division and won a free car from a pageant-wide raffle.
Lawrence’s road to nationals was one of adversary, though. Before her coronation, Lawrence had competed for her title four times previously, only to persevere and make it to lucky number five.
“The hardest part was getting there,” she said. “It was my fifth time. The easiest part, I think, was just actually competing. There was no stress.”
Lawrence did not advance. However, both women heavily emphasized the reason they do pageants: the relationships.
“The reason I do pageants is the friendships you make; people don’t realize the connections you make,” Lawrence said.
Story by Kayla MacAllister, Staff writer