Several years ago I was asked to be the emcee for a beauty pageant held in Charlotte. I can’t remember the name of the pageant but I know it was held in the old Ovens Auditorium and the headquarters were at the Ramada Inn just down the street on Independence Boulevard.
I was supposed to be at the auditorium on Friday night for rehearsal then meet the contestants, judges and some of the local sponsors for a luncheon at the hotel at noon on Saturday.
The contestants were to have the interview portion of the competition at the Ramada prior to the luncheon. When I arrived I went into a large room where I found several of the contestants seated primly waiting to go into another room where the judges were holding the interviews.
After speaking to the young ladies I noticed a little girl seated alone on the other side of the room. She was dressed as if she, too, were a contestant. She wore a frilly pink dress with white patent leather shoes and a white leotard. Her blond hair was held back from her face by a pink ribbon with a bow at the top. She had crossed her legs at the ankles and clasped her hands in her lap. She looked like a small version of the girls on the other side of the room (except for the white leotards).
She looked lonesome so I decided I would talk to her while the contestants were waiting to be interviewed.
I offered her a handshake and said, “Hi, my name is Bill. What’s yours?” She looked straight ahead and didn’t say a word.
“I’m here for the luncheon. Are you in the pageant?” Still no response.
Sensing that she didn’t really want any company, I took a seat about three chairs down on the row she was seated on to wait for the conclusion of the interview session. In a few seconds she said, “My mother told me not to talk to strangers.”
I said, “That’s a very good policy and you should always do what your mother says”.
Then she went on as if I was no longer a stranger. “My name is Olivia. I’m only seven years old which means I’m not old enough to be in the pageant. You must not be a judge or you’d know that. My mother and father are judges for this pageant so I couldn’t be in it anyway.”
“Have you been in a pageant where you were old enough”?
“Oh, yes. I’ve been in several pageants. I sing and dance. My mother says I’m another Shirley Temple, whoever that is. I really think I’m a lot like Marie Osmond though.” (That tells you how long ago this all happened.) Would you like to hear me sing ‘Paper Roses’?”
Without further encouragement she sang “Paper Roses” in a beautiful, little girl voice.
When she finished I applauded and told her she did very well and she thanked me. I asked, “Do you like pageants?”
“Yes”, she replied. “But it’s only make believe. I just pretend I’m a princess or a movie star, just get dressed up and play like I’m one. It’s fun but it’s not real life, you know. Today I’m a princess.”
I gazed at that little girl in amazement. She was more mature than a lot of adults. I wondered how she got so smart in such a short length of time.
I looked over to the other side of the room and saw that there was only one girl left to go in for the interview session. Since I figured we were now friends I jokingly said to Olivia, “When that last girl gets through with her interview why don’t you and I go in and be interviewed.”
To which she replied, “No, I don’t think so. You’re a big boy. You can go in by yourself.”
So I did and left Princess Olivia sitting serenely on her throne.