Webster Parish and the City of Minden will be well represented at the upcoming Miss Louisiana Pageant, to be held June 22-24 at the Monroe Civic Center’s W.L. Jack Howard Theater, with two contestants gracing the stage.
The contestants, Abigail Reynolds, competing as Miss Minden, and Eleanor Gilbert, winner of this year’s Miss Holiday In Dixie pageant, stand out from the crowd, even among a field of 33 of Louisiana’s best and brightest young women.
Abigail Reynolds is the 19-year-old daughter of Dustin and Jenny Reynolds and a 2016 graduate of Lakeside High School in Sibley. She attends Tulane University in New Orleans, where she is a sophomore, double-majoring in Political Science and Public Health.
She has worked in the Louisiana State Capitol as a committee clerk for the House and Governmental Affairs Committee before spending last spring earning college credits working with national lobbying firm Southern Strategy Group’s Louisiana branch.
“Representing Minden is a huge honor,” Reynolds said. “Minden and the surrounding area are all about community, and being one figure from this area who gets to be an advocate for that is really special.”
“It’s important for younger kids to see that and be encouraged to shop small, stay around this area and be the future of Minden and Webster Parish,” Reynolds said.
Eleanor Gilbert is the 21-year-old daughter of Andy and Faith Gilbert and a 2014 graduate of Glenbrook School in Minden. She attends Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, where she will be a senior in the fall, majoring in accounting. Gilbert said upon completing her undergraduate degree she will attend law school.
Gilbert serves as President of Delta Delta Delta sorority, has served as senator for LSU Student Government and previously worked as Director of Finances for Tri Delta; she will begin an audit internship with Ernst and Young in Dallas in summer 2018.
“As Miss Holiday Inn Dixie, I represent one of the oldest-running festivals in Louisiana,” Gilbert said. “It’s been a lot of fun having that background and taking this time to invest in myself in getting ready for the Miss Louisiana pageant.”
Gilbert and Reynolds have shared in the rigors of pageant prep these past few months; after all, neither became a Miss Louisiana contender by resting on their laurels.
“I’ve been trying to prepare my mind for interviews, my body for the lifestyle and fitness portion of the competition and then my voice for the talent portion,” Gilbert said. “It’s been very busy, but it’s been nice to invest time into things that will pay off in the long run.”
Reynolds gave away one of the not-so-secret secrets behind what keeps her balanced amidst the glitz, glam and calamity.
“A planner definitely helps with that,” she said. “Not to mention I have really great parents who helped me out when I needed a little extra gas money. I worked and schooled Monday through Thursday every week and then drive back home so that Friday, Saturday and Sunday I could be Miss Minden and do things like visit nursing homes, going to The Farm for different events or hosting fundraisers for Children’s Miracle Network.”
Gilbert points to her mother as a beacon of stability in her ever-changing routine.
“She’s been that backbone of support for me,” Gilbert said. “She keeps me in line and happy during all of this, making sure I don’t get stressed out. The rest of my family and friends, my voice coach and my church family at First Baptist Minden have also been great sources of encouragement and I feel very blessed to have all that support behind me.”
Gilbert and Reynolds share a helping heart, as evident by their respective pageant platforms.
Gilbert’s platform is St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, a cause special to many, especially in the Minden area, while Reynolds platform, Authentically Beautiful: Self-Confidence Over Social Standards, encourages young girls not to conform to society and social media’s expectations for body image.
The two contestants could easily fall victim to the age-old stigma of pageant girls being rivals, given the scholarship dollars and notoriety at stake, however both made it abundantly clear they have a friendly relationship.
“It’s actually really cool,” Reynolds said. “We were both first-timers, I guess you could say, at Miss Minden. We had both done school pageants before, but this was something we were both passionate about and I’m thrilled that we have, not one, but two people from Webster Parish on stage; she’s a great girl, super smart and she’s making leaps and bounds at LSU.”
“We’re fortunate to be in the same competing group,” Gilbert said. “We’re going to be together all week, and I’m looking forward to continue to build a stronger relationship with her as the week goes on; it’s been a lot of sisterly love.”
Both have more than an outsider’s shot at being crowned Miss Louisiana 2017, but only one can wear the crown.
“It would be a dream job,” Reynolds said. “That’s my ultimate goal: to make a difference all across Louisiana for the hard-working and generous people of this state.”
Gilbert echoed that sentiment.
“It would give me an opportunity to travel to all 64 parishes and inspire people all throughout this state,” Gilbert said. “The Miss Louisiana Organization is the largest scholarship provider for women in the state of Louisiana; a lot of young girls don’t know that, and so they don’t compete because they think it’s just a beauty pageant. Winning would give me an opportunity to spread that knowledge throughout the state.”