Miss Blue Ridge Valley Rachel Möwer sings a ballad. Photo by Pete Zamplas.
By Pete Zamplas – Advancing to public service after competing recently in the 80th Miss North Carolina Scholarship Pageant in Raleigh, superb-singing local pageant queens Melody Elizabeth Rose Hager and Rachel Leigh Möwer delighted veterans at a recent appearance.
Miss Asheville Hager and Miss Blue Ridge Valley (BRV) Möwer visited Asheville Veterans Administration (VA) Hospital on July 7. So did Miss Hendersonville Kathlene Beam, and BRV (for all of WNC) Outstanding Teen Maggie Effler. Youth “princesses” join the Blue Ridge Valley Girls — as the queens call themselves — at many appearances.
Möwer recalled a touching moment, by the juke box in the V.A. lobby. “A patient turned on a song, and sat down. We kept making eye contact.” She asked him to dance. “He said, ‘Who me? Oh gosh.. I was just about to ask you!’ She said onlookers gave “applause after our dance. He was such a sweet man. I’ll never forget that moment.”
Hager’s grandfather is a World War II veteran. “To visit with veterans that have given so much of themselves to make sure that our freedoms are protected is beyond comprehension,” Hager said. She described the vets there as “humble,” not seeing recognition after serving for “the greater good. It’s inspiring, and reminds me to be humble in all my endeavors. Because they’re the ones who deserve all the glory and recognition.”
Fitting her Music is Medicine: Music Therapy Matters platform, she said V.A. in Asheville offered her a site there for music jams by vets and other musicians. This could raise money such as for the V.A. which “offers music therapy to patients who qualify,” she said. “I’m very excited about it.”
She lauded Effler singing each military branch’s song, to vets in V.A.’s hospice unit. “Seeing the look on the faces of the vets was priceless,” Hager said. Some “sang along and danced.” She said vets’ social media messages of thanks “means more to us than they’ll ever know.”
Area pageant queens’ next scheduled public appearance is at the Apple Festival and its parade, Sept. 1-4 in Downtown Hendersonville, pageant staff noted. Hendersonville Outstanding Teen Katelyn Ledbetter said she will also be there. Möwer looks forward to singing on stage, and to “celebrate with a few candied apples” while Hager is eager to “eat some apple pie.”
Local queens won their crowns Jan. 28, in a multi-pageant gala in Flat Rock Playhouse. Möwer and Hager each wowed the crowd with vocals. They shared a talent award.
As Hager notes, these titles are an “ honor and a privilege.” Möwer feels “so blessed to serve.” Effler stated on Facebook she feels “blessed to represent the mountains with you lovely ladies.” Pageant staff said the local pageants are planned to next be Nov. 4.
The Miss North Carolina Scholarship Pageant was June 21-24, in Raleigh. TV news producer-reporter Victoria Alexis Huggins of Wilmington is the new Miss North Carolina. She beat out 43 others. She vies for Miss America Sept. 10. Marissa Garrison was crowned Miss N.C.’s Outstanding Teen, out of 46 contestants.
In the talent segment in Raleigh, Möwer sang Roy Orbison’s tender pop ballad “Blue Bayou.” She did Adele’s “One and Only,” in the local multi-pageant. “It was an incredible moment singing on the Miss North Carolina stage,” Möwer said. “Definitely more nerve-wracking. But even more rewarding, after acing the song and being able to relax afterwards.”
Hager sang Otis Redding’s slow-grinding soul burner “I’ve Been Loving You (Too Long).” This was an “homage” to her father Michael Hager and his late friend; they often played it in gigs. In the local pageants, as she sang Etta James 1941 bluesy love ballad “At Last” a FRP stage light bulb burst with a loud crash. Yet, Hager kept going. In Raleigh, “thankfully no hiccups happened!”
Hager said she shed 40 pounds in the last half-year. In the “lifestyle and fitness”/swimsuit segment, she was “excited to showcase a body that I’ve worked incredibly hard on.” Möwer also trained diligently — for “the extra mile to succeed, and feel confident in my own skin.”
When in an evening gown, she felt “unbelievably stunning” and like Scarlett O’Hara, Miss America, and Wonder Woman all at the same time” felt. A sentimental bonus was being escorted on stage by “the most important man in my life, my dad Michael Wayne. That was just the cherry on top of an incredible evening.”
Social platforms are critical. Both queens were asked about their issues, for spontaneously answering on-stage questions.
Hager’s ongoing message is “music therapy can benefit people” such as her grandfather who “has slipped further into his dementia every day. My family implements therapeutic music for him. We can see him coming out of his dementia-induced stupor. He’s able to be the jovial, funny man he always has been.”
Möwer was asked on-stage about the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, her platform. She stresses “we are getting closer and closer to a cure every day. The 70,000 children and adults worldwide battling this fatal disease deserve to live past high school…I’m so blessed to be involved in this fight, through (platform program) Breathe Hope.”
She was also asked how she has spread the message, as Miss BRV. “This year I was able to attend five Great Strides walks in the western N.C. area,” she noted to The Tribune. “ I was able to connect with C.F. fighters and their families, who I keep in touch with regularly over social media. It’s been a rewarding experience to bring more attention to the issue, and assist in finding a cure.”
At the state pageant, Hager roomed with Miss Mount Holly Allison Farris. Farris would be second runner-up. She had competed in Miss N.C. before. She gave Hager tips and “kept me sane” in a physically and mentally “exhausting” week, Hager said. She said contestants were “pushed to our limits.” She relaxed chatting with others.
Hager said “not making the top 15 really messed with my head. I know what I am capable of. Why couldn’t the judges see that?” But she realized their inherent subjectivity. She concluded “it simply was not my time,” and if trying again will “work even harder.” By pageant’s end Hager felt “humbled, disappointed, elated, heartbroken” — and ultimately “ecstatic.”
Camaraderie among queens is a bonus. This year, “Melody has been my best friend through this entire experience,” Möwer noted. It is “so enjoyable, just by having her in my life. She’s truly special.”
Hager calls Möwer “my twin, my angel. Voice like butter, and a heart that shines. Paired with unparalleled wit and beauty. You’re my sunshine on a rainy day, and my soul sister.” She has “grown closer to my sister queens.”
BRV teen queen Effler, Hager said, is an “unbelievably hard-working, kind, and beautiful inside and out” and has an “incredible voice and amazing mind.” Möwer said, “Her faith is awe-inspiring. Her positive outlook on life is a breath of fresh air.”