Sparkly dresses, flowing hair, and a glittering crown are still a part of modern day beauty pageants, but thanks to a new campaign, one local competition is proving it’s about more than just a pretty face.
Last year, Shanna Paxton Photography launched a new campaign for the Miss Thurston County pageant designed to highlight each contestant’s talents. From equestrians to teachers, cos players and athletes, the “More Than A Princess” campaign looks at the unique qualities each contestant has, revealing that there’s more than meets the eye.
“When you think of a beauty pageant, you either think of ‘Miss Congeniality’ or ‘Toddlers and Tiaras,’” Shanna says, “but it’s more than a beauty pageant — this organization helps empower women through scholarships.”
For the young women competing for the crown, the Miss Thurston County pageant isn’t about looking good for the camera, it’s a launchpad for success and an opportunity to make a positive impact on the community.
“We wanted to hit a reset button on the program and really help with awareness,” says Shanna’s husband, Jeff Gibson. “A lot of people question if there’s even a place for pageants in today’s world. That’s why we came up with the ‘More Than A Princess Campaign,’ to help with the public’s perceptions and show that these girls are more than what they appear to be.”
This message resonated strongly with Miss Thurston County’s current titleholder, Emily Hamack, one of the first women to participate in the ‘More Than A Princess’ campaign. “‘We have young women in our community that are going places, and the ‘More Than A Princess’ campaign puts a light on that.”
Emily remembers her photo shoot with Shanna Paxton Photography fondly. “People in the community already knew me, so instead of doing a job or a hobby, we took the opportunity to show people who I really am,” Emily says. During Emily’s shoot, she got in touch with her playful side, donning googly-eyed glasses outside of Captain Little toy store in downtown Olympia.
“Each woman has special potential,” Emily says. “The campaign really helps to highlight how unique each girl is.”
With the 2016 Miss Thurston County pageant just a few short weeks away, Emily is preparing to pass on her crown, and Shanna is busily snapping photos of this year’s contestants, who range from a poultry farmer to a roller derby girl.
Shanna says it’s a joy getting to know the contestants and creating their campaigns, but it’s what happens behind the scenes that she looks forward to the most. “The best part of that freedom is that I get to capture it all, and not in a sneaky way,” Shanna says, “but in a, ‘Oh my gosh, that’s a great moment, let’s photograph it!’ I can’t wait to see what wonderful moments unfold this year.”
This year’s Miss Thurston County pageant takes place on Sunday, March 6 at South Puget Sound Community College’s Kenneth J. Minnaert Center for the Arts. For a sneak peek at this year’s contestants and more information, visit Miss Thurston County’s Facebook page. For ticket information, visit Miss Thurston County online.