Rochester HillsAugust 29, 2012
Ms. Senior Michigan contestants embrace age with elegance
By Mary Beth Almond
C & G Staff Writer
ROCHESTER HILLS — At the age of 62, Irene Waller says she has accomplished many things, but she was proud to add yet another milestone to her list recently — her first trophy.
At the urging of her husband, Waller, of Rochester Hills, entered her first pageant, and was named first runner-up in the Ms. Senior Michigan pageant at the Older Persons’ Commission in July.
“I was so excited because in my 62 years I had never had a trophy. It was very exciting,” she said. “I was actually surprised because I didn’t think I was as talented as some of these other ladies. It was a good part of my life. Everybody deserves 15 minutes of fame, so I guess I got mine.”
Waller, who now proudly displays her very first trophy on her sewing machine, admitted she never believed in pageants before competing for the title of Ms. Senior Michigan.
“I don’t mean to knock it, but I always thought it was more for the pretty faces and stuff. Well, it really is a lot of work. We met several times, we had to do rehearsals, we had to wear a long gown and learn how to walk and talk. I learned a lot of things,” she said.
Waller said she was proud to share the stage with 10 other talented senior women, who ranged in age from 60 to over 80.
“I was very excited to meet a group of women who are so full of life,” she said.
One of the women Waller shared the stage with was Rochester Hills resident Toni Sanchez-Murphy, who was crowned Ms. Senior Michigan 2012.
The 64-year-old said taking part in the pageant was a first for her as well, and she was pleasantly surprised to win.
“The last time I won anything was at age 14, getting onto the varsity cheer team in high school,” Sanchez-Murphy said. “There was two or three seconds of ‘oh my gosh, that’s me. They called my name.’ … I was surprised and delighted.”
After taking her mother to see the pageant last year, Sanchez-Murphy decided she would give it a go onstage.
“I saw all these good, courageous women — ages 60 and over — strutting their stuff onstage and I was very impressed with the courage and energy up there. I thought, ‘you know, I want to be one of those people. I can do that. And that’s how this whole thing began,” she said.
So often, Sanchez-Murphy said, women are afraid of aging, and they shouldn’t be.
“They are afraid of giving their age and they’re afraid of testifying to their own life,” she said. “The concept of Ms. Senior Michigan is that it’s about a philosophy of energy and intelligence and teaching the next generation our own wisdom — the things that we find are important, the things that we value, and the things that promote the general welfare. These are things that we senior women want to make sure go on.”
Just because a woman is over 60, or has a knee problem or other ailment, doesn’t mean they can’t keep trying new things, Sanchez- Murphy said.
“Senior women should not compare ourselves with 20-year-olds. We’re not 20. We’re gifted with 40 more years of experience, of knowledge, of understanding, of empathy that 20 year olds still lack. We shortchange ourselves, focusing only on beauty and bathing suits, rather than seeing that we have so much more to offer. That’s why I think that this pageant should be larger,” she added.
As winner, Sanchez-Murphy will represent Michigan at the national competition, Ms. Senior America Oct. 7-12 in Atlantic City, New Jersey. She hopes to encourage more women to compete in the pageant next year.
“This year we had 11 contestants. Last year there were 11 contestants, and most came from southeastern Michigan. It would be nice to see people from the other parts of the state interested,” she said.
For more information about Ms. Senior Michigan, which is open to all women ages 60 or older, visit www.msseniormichigan.org.
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