ST. PAULS — Family, friends, community members and the St. Pauls Board of Commissioners came out Thursday to send off Miss North Carolina Victoria Huggins to the Miss America pageant.
At the sendoff, refreshments were served and Huggins’ favorite songs were played as she greeted attendees, posed for photos and signed autographs for friends and family. Stories about Huggins as a child and hopes that she would win the Miss America Pageant, scheduled for Sept. 6 to Sept. 10, were shared.
“I’m very proud of her and happy to see that all of the fruits of her labor have paid off,” said Beverly Huggins, Huggins’ mother. “She’s carrying God with her.”
The event was planned by Cathy Jackson, Joanie White and Sara Hayes, all friends of the family. The women said that they have known Huggins for years and felt that she needed a proper send-off.
“We just knew something needed to be done,” White said. “She deserved a reception.”
Huggins’ aunts came out to support her and sent her off with well-wishes.
“Were very proud of her. One day I would like to have the drive that she has. The way you see her right now, is how she is at home,” said Wanda Carter, an aunt, as she watched Huggins sign autographs.
“I just wish her the best. I am rooting for her 100 percent,” said Melinda Rodriguez, another of Huggins’ aunts.
“I know that Victoria is a very special person,” Robi Burnell, Huggins’ youngest aunt. “You can just feel how genuine she is.”
Victoria Huggins, competing as Miss Greater Sampson County, won the Miss North Carolina title on June 24 over 43 other women vying for the crown, becoming the second pageant winner from St. Pauls.
The 23-year-old daughter of Beverly and Terrell Huggins was crowned in the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts by the 2016 Miss North Carolina, McKenzie Faggart. The new Miss North Carolina received a $20,000 scholarship and the opportunity to represent North Carolina in the Miss America Pageant.
“I’m so humbled and honored to be representing Robeson County,” Huggins said shortly after the win.
Winning the crown meant she had to give up her job as a producer and reporter for television station WECT in Wilmington, Huggins said. But she can renegotiate returning to the station after her reign ends. In the meantime, she has been on the other side of the microphone.
Huggins is no stranger to pageant life. The graduate of The University of North Carolina at Pembroke and Johns Hopkins University has competed at the state level as 2013 Miss Fayetteville, 2014 Miss Central Carolina, 2015 Miss Greater Southeastern and 2016 Miss Wilmington. She was second runner-up in the 2015 Miss North Carolina pageant and third runner-up a year ago.
In this year’s Miss North Carolina preliminaries, Huggins won the Talent Award and the Dana Reason Quality of Life Award, which honors a contestant’s community service platforms. Huggins was a finalist a year ago for the Quality of Life Award.
Huggins sang “Unchained Melody” in the talent portion of the Miss North Carolina competition.
Huggins is using her time as Miss North Carolina to help improve the quality of life for people struggling with Alzheimer’s disease. Higgins said that this will her platform at the Miss America Pageant, which is held at Atlantic City, New Jersey.
“I want to raise Alzheimer’s awareness and advocate for music therapy for Alzheimer’s patients,” she said recently.
Higgins said that when she was young, she would visit her grandmother at the rest home and she would sing for her. She said that other residents heard her and soon she was singing for the whole community. She said that being at the rest home is what made her want to to do work for Alzheimer’s disease.
Huggins believes that music therapy engages a patient’s entire brain and stimulates memory. Listening to a favorite song from high school will revive memories from that period in the patient’s life, she said. And music is a source of comfort for patients and their caregivers.
“Music helps do what medicine can’t,” Huggins said.
Reach Tomeka Sinclair at 910-416-5865.