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Pageant winners serve for a variety of reasons

By Staff | Jul 18, 2013

CHUCK?BALLARO Miss Cape Coral Teen Nola Simons, Mr. Florida Kahlil DeWeever and Mrs. Florida Donaji Hicks.

They do it for all sorts of reasons, whether it be as a lark or for scholarship money, or because they were goaded into it by friends or want to use it as a springboard to help others.

They enter beauty pageants.

And they aren’t necessarily the ones you see on TV. You can be a Miss or Mrs. or Ms. You can be a teenager or mature woman or even a man.

Today, there are pageants for any person who has enough fortitude to try it. Three Cape Coral residents have.

Nola Simons

For the current Miss Cape Coral Teen, her involvement in pageants go back to when she was very young.

But after doing a couple of them, she decided to take up dance. It took a random look in the newspaper to bring her back in.

“I saw a friend’s picture in the paper as Miss Florida Teen. Another friend contacted her for me and got me the number of her mother, who signed me up for the pageant,” Nola Simons said. “I did my first pageant and became Miss Cape Coral Teen.”

Simons, 18, won the title over seven other teens (13-19) in the evening gown, introduction, and interview competitions. Talent was optional, but she decided to dance.

Still, she didn’t expect to win. But when her name was called

“I was shocked because it was my first pageant in forever because I don’t remember them when I was younger,” Simons said. “I was proud of myself for accomplishing it. There were other girls who I thought were gorgeous, but I came out on top and it was awesome.”

Simons will compete for Miss Florida Teen in November in Tampa, with the Miss Teen National, also in Tampa, and International after that.

Simons, who graduated from Ida Baker High School in June and will attend Edison State College in the fall, said she wants to win Miss Florida Teen. If she does, after her reign she wants to do more pageants and continue to make a difference.

“I think pageants are awesome and I want to be involved in the community,” Simons said. “I’ve done events at Special Pops and the Shell Factory and even judged other pageants.”

And regardless of the event, she has to bring the tiara and banner, even if it’s backpacking, Simons said.

And to those interested in entering pageants themselves, she said they’re the great way to bring out the best in you.

“They bring out your inner beauty and feminine side. They get you involved in the community and make you feel special because the girls think you’re a princess,” Simons said.

Donaji Hicks

Hicks certainly has the personality to be Mrs. Florida. Very outgoing and always laughing, she got involved in pageants through being a sponsor of them.

“The winner always got a piece of fine jewelry from me. I had no thought of being a contestant until I was informed there would be a Mrs. division,” Hicks said. “I said I would judge, but my friend told me ‘No, no, no, you’re going to be in it.’ I said ‘I am?'”

She was talked into it, and two years ago, she won Mrs. Cape Coral, her first pageant win since she was Little Miss Stanton, Calif. at age 4.

She went to the state pageant that year and finished in the Top 5, thanks to her husband sponsoring her through their store, Lolly’s Jewelry on Del Prado Boulevard.

The following year, she won Mrs. Lee County and went to the state pageant again, winning second runner-up and the winning evening gown and community service competitions.

“I entered another pageant and won Mrs. South Florida, then was informed that if the reigning Mrs. Florida couldn’t fulfill her duties that I would became Mrs. Florida, since the first runner-up couldn’t do it,” Hicks said. “S

As of June 2, she became the reigning Mrs. Florida.”

She represented the state in the national pageant last month in Orlando, where she performed in a musical number, and did swimwear and evening wear.

Hicks has made personal appearances at fashion shows and other locales. Her reign as Mrs. Florida ends in November.

“I got to do the Southwest Florida Hispanic Chamber in Naples and Special Pops. I got to meet so many people and took lots of pictures,” Hicks said. “Special Pops was so cool and I got to do the July 4th Parade in Fort Myers Beach.”

Hicks said she would like to do a pageant in the elite division before she turns 50, but has no interest in the ‘Ms.’ Pageants.

“I’d be at a disadvantage going against 30-year-olds, especially when I have a 27-year-old daughter,” Hicks said.

Kahlil DeWeever

Considering that some predicted a challenged future when he was young, Kahlil DeWeever is blessed to have the life he has now, and uses his title as Mr. Florida to help others.

“I wanted to get more involved in the community. I was passing out candy at a parade and got introduced to a lady who ran one of the preliminary pageants and asked if I wanted to do it,” DeWeever said.

DeWeever admitted he wasn’t sure about it, but decided it would be a good way to travel Florida. So, he entered Mr. Florida West Coast, and won.

DeWeever said it was the best decision he’s made. He became Mr. Florida in November in Tampa after winning best interview and casualwear.

Men’s pageants are a little different, and DeWeever said people do find it unusual. However, he’s very secure about it and it does seem to be growing in popularity.

“I didn’t know about them before I entered. It’s up and coming. There are more people and better quality, and I’m thankful for the chance that I wouldn’t have gotten any other way,” DeWeever said.

DeWeever has no problem interacting with people, especially those who are less fortunate, which he attributes to his childhood.

DeWeever got meningitis when he was young and they said he wouldn’t achieve more than an eighth-grade education. But he beat the odds and it has taught him to cherish and appreciate all there is to life.

“I’ve had a great time in all my events. I’m not sure what can top that. I’m very grateful for it,” DeWeever said.

That’s why you see him at events such as Special Pops, dancing with everybody and having a good time with everyone there.

“It’s comforting to know that I can have an impact, regardless of how small,” DeWeever said. “What these people have to go through for years and years, just from being there, it could easily have been me.”