Perseverance pays off for Driver queens

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Last October, Stephanie Majewski came within an announcement of winning her first-ever beauty pageant.

As the Princesses (i.e. runners-up) were announced, it came down to Majewski and Whitlie Cullipher for the Teen (15-17) Miss Driver Village title. Then the final verdict boomed across the Nansemond River High School stage.

“Our last Princess…Miss Stephanie Majewski.”

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Cullipher got the crown. Majewski got a new task.

Over the next year, she competed in the Miss American Miss Pageant in Washington, D.C., and placed fourth in the Modeling Division. When the next round of Driver competition came around Saturday evening, this time at King’s Fork High, the Nansemond River graduate was ready to take on the best in Miss (18+) competition.

Majewski didn’t have to tell Perri Holloman about disappointment; the 2005 event would mark her third attempt at Driver royalty.

“I worked on my interviews and questions,” said Holloman, a John Yeates Middle School student. “My mom asked me a lot of stuff.”

She geared up for the Junior Miss (11-12) pageant.

While Majewski and Holloman were trying to finish what they’d started, Jessica Paschell was on a personal quest.

“I wanted to prove that big girls could win!” said the Wilson High student. “Skinny girls normally win the pageants, and I’m usually bigger than them.” Her first pageant ever would be the Teen Miss (13-14) event.

Early Saturday the girls sat down for a quick interview with judges, Old Dominion University Recreation Sports Assistant Director Jean Holt, Virginia Beach Business Consultant Rick Sloan and Dollar Tree Systems Administration Director Jill Ash.

“They asked about stuff on our resume,” Majewski said. “They asked that if I could have lunch with anybody, who would it be? I said the President, because I want to talk to him about the war in Iraq. I don’t think we have any reason to be over there.”

“I told them I wanted to be a pediatrician,” Holloman said. “I want to open my own practice. I showed my personality and got to know them a little better.”

As the show began, the 17 contestants in the three divisions walked on stage wearing beach gear and introduced themselves to the crowd. After the Southside Ballet Studio from Smithfield put on a routine, the girls came out in sportswear.

Majewski did an Annie Oakley impression.

“I dressed like a cowgirl because it made me stand out,” she said.

Then the men from the Driver Fire Department grabbed their own moment in the spotlight. Ryan Wood and Joe Craig put on their dancing boots, and John Williford lip-synched “If You Want My Body.” But Barry Utter and Brian Fillman’s surf-dancing demonstration stole the show, and the two were declared co-Mr. Driver Days.

After an intermission, the party-wear competition began. Paschell, who said she often modeled in front of a mirror, wore a purple dress, while Holloman wore a dark purple and Majewski aquamarine. The girls were brought individually to the front of the stage, where co-Mistress of Ceremonies Krystal Gizara asked them some questions.

Holloman was asked about her favorite part of the competition, and said it was meeting the judges. Paschell talked about the Disney World Resorts show being the best part of a Travel Channel fan. Majewski, a reality-show guru, said that of all those shows, she’d most like to go on the MTV show “Real World,” because “It takes you away from your reality so you can live in someone else’s reality.”

Cullipher and the rest of the 2004 winners said their farewells, and their successors were finally named. From among a field of five, Holloman’s was the first to be announced. One by one, the princesses were named. This time, Holloman was there at the end.

“It was very nerve-wracking,” she said. “I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, I won! After three years, I won!’ I always tried, but I think this year I did my best. It was worth the wait.”

Paschell had the longest wait of the night n she was one of seven n and she didn’t expect it to last.

“I was trying not to shake too much,” she said. “I was thinking, ‘There’s no way I won, so just announce me and get it over with.’”

She couldn’t have been more wrong; she was the last Queen standing. After that, she said, “I was thinking, ‘Don’t fall when you go and get your crown.’”

That left just one more competition to decide, and four more names to announce. Three calls later, Majewski found that she’d taken that one last step to stardom.

“I was praying I would get it,” she said. “It was like that last year, but I was a little more confident, because I thought I’d done better.” Majewski, who lost a grandmother to lung cancer in August, said that she’d use her crown to spread word about the dangers of smoking.

The next day, Ashlynn Pippin won the Tiny Miss (Age 2-4), while Rileigh Ramirez was named the Wee Miss (Age 5-7) and Alexis Woodward the Little Miss (Age 8-9). The Queens will be seen at the 12th annual Driver Village Fall Festival. For more information, visit the Web site