By Diane Y. Welch
Wendy Hill of Rancho Santa Fe says that she embraces each day as though she will live to be 1,000 years old, even though she knows she won’t.
It’s a philosophy that resonated with judges in the recent preliminary Ms. Senior Pageant contests when Hill became Ms. Senior Conejo Valley at the pageant held in Thousand Oaks last month.
The competition is open to American women 60 years of age and up who have reached the “age of elegance.”
Hill, a professional hypnotherapist and psychotherapist, said that competing in the pageants has brought a whole new level of experience to her life.
“It challenges me in many, many ways, not just in terms of winning the competition, but also when I lose. It enables me to understand that this isn’t anything about me personally, my worthiness is intact no matter what the outcome.”
Contestants, who are typically very young and vital in their attitude and behavior, as well as very talented, compete in four categories which include an interview with the five judges, gown modeling, sharing a philosophy of life, and performing a talent, explained Hill.
For her performance, Hill sang “Cabaret,” a version that she arranged musically to fit the two minutes and 45-second time limit. “If the song exceeds [the time limit] you will be disqualified,” she said.
In 2005, Hill was crowned Ms. Senior West Los Angeles then she returned to compete last year. The seven-year hiatus allowed her to hone her personality “To learn the lessons that come with a competition like this,” she said. “Lessons of self growth.”
The women who enter the pageants are very supportive of each other. There is a sense of sisterhood among them, said Hill. “There are deep friendships that get forged, we are there for each other whether we win or not.”
Peggy Padilla, Ms. Senior California of 2009, and a member of the pageant’s Board of Directors, is one such friend.
She said that Wendy is an outstanding competitor. “She’s tall, has a great figure, beautiful long dark hair, has a lovely face and very pretty eyes. She looks 20 years younger than she actually is.”
And she said that Hill’s work as a therapist makes her very personable. “So when it comes to the judges’ interview she does very well.”
Padilla commented that Hill looks gorgeous in a gown, whether it is a prom gown or a long, sleek evening gown. And her talent as a singer shines, she said.
Hill, a third-generation Californian, said that her own family doesn’t understand why she enters these pageants. “They think it is some kind of narcissistic beauty contest and, in fact, many people have that attitude. But for me it is another form of a challenge and a test for my own development.” In line with this self growth, Hill is close to completing her Ph.D. in counseling.
But it’s the competition of the pageant that helps keep Hill, “Alive, creative, active and feeling young,” she stressed.
Residents of California who fit entry criteria are able to compete at any one of eight preliminary state-wide pageants. Winners and the runners-up advance to compete for the title of Ms. Senior California which this year will be held at the Rose Center Theater in Westminster, Calif., on Aug. 31. Winners at the state level go on to compete for Ms. Senior America in Atlantic City.
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