Eleven years ago, Kayla Wright competed for and won the title of Miss Statesville Carolina Princess.
On Saturday, Wright claimed something she’d been aiming for since that competition more than a decade ago — Miss Statesville. As she was announced as the 2022 Miss Statesville by Tennille Kilby Sherrill, tears welled up in her eyes and she clasped her hands together as a thank you to the judges.
“I finally got the title,” she said as she was congratulated by family and her fellow contestants, Andersen Raines and Deoveune Chappell.
Wright was not the only young woman to earn a title Saturday night at Statesville High School’s Mac Gray Auditorium.
Carrie Rader was crowned Miss Statesville Outstanding Teen. She was one of four contestants for the title. Savannah Royals, Heather Young and Addie Eury also were in the running for the title.
“I was excited and shocked,” Rader said. “I am so happy. It’s a dream come true.”
Among those congratulating Wright and Rader were Melody Hager and McKenzie Scott Cox. Hager was the reigning Miss Statesville and Cox the Outstanding Teen. Both held the titles for more than two years because the 2021 pageant was canceled due to COVID-19.
Hager and Cox gave their farewell speeches, both thanking family members, friends and the people of Statesville for their support during the past two years.
Hager is pursuing her master’s degree and plans to further her social impact initiative of promoting the importance of music therapy and lobbying to make music therapy a recognized specialty.
She said the scholarship monies she earned as Miss Statesville will help her further her education.
For Cox, her social impact initiative is encouraging the importance of and availability of reading materials through little libraries. She is deciding where she will go to college, and said the monies are ensuring she can pursue those opportunities.
She said the two years as Outstanding Teen helped with her self-confidence as well. “I was shy and unsure,” she said. Now, she said, is bolder and more confident.
Isabella DiFoire and Emmerson Perry, Carolina Princesses, also bid farewell.
The Carolina Princess program, where Wright first set eyes on becoming Miss Statesville, was established 18 years ago as a mentoring program in which the two princesses shadow Miss Statesville and the Outstanding Teen.
But in the midst of bidding farewell to the reigning queen and princesses, the three contestants for Miss Statesville and the four for Outstanding Teen showcased their talents, ranging from singing to monologues to lyrical dances to a Hula Hoop routine set to music. They also walked the stage in their evening wear and answered questions for the judges.
They also answered questions concerning their social impact initiatives.
For Wright, her social impact initiative was sparked by her experience as a sexual assault survivor. She calls her platform L.I.A.R. (Love Isn’t a Reason).
“It’s time to stop the stigma,” she said.
Rader’s social impact initiative is called Carrie Cares, which supports teens with ADHD and anxiety.
Wright and Rader also were the recipients of individual recognitions as well.
Rader was voted Miss Congeniality and earned a $50 scholarship, was the talent winner, which includes a $100 scholarship sponsored by Cox, and was the Lifestyle and Wellness winner with a $100 scholarship sponsored by 2018 Miss Statesville Outstanding Teen McKenzy Sharpe.
Royals received the Grace Dirig Community Service Award and a $250 scholarship. The award is named in honor of 2017 Miss Statesville and 2015 Outstanding Teen, Grace Dirig, and was presented by her parents Dr. Christopher and Amy Dirig.
Wright was also the recipient of the Miss Congeniality honor, sponsored by 2019 Miss Statesville Kaitlyn Sparks; that included a $200 scholarship. She also was chosen for the Onstage Question/Social Impact Initiative Award, sponsored by Miss Statesville 2012 Jordan Rager Belk, with a $250 scholarship. Wright completed a near sweep, winning the Talent Award, sponsored by Hager. That award includes a $250 scholarship.
The Compassion for Community Award, sponsored by 2014 Miss Statesville Ashtin Gill, was presented to Chappell, and that comes with a $100 scholarship.
Sherrill also was one of the winners Saturday night as she was presented the Danny Davis Sponsor of the Year Award. The award is named in memory of Davis, a long-time supporter of the Miss Statesville program. He died in 2017.
Miss Statesville executive director Ryan Pegarsch thanked those that sponsored the event. “It takes a village,” he said.