By Michele Deluca
If it seems like there were more beautiful women than usual in downtown Niagara Falls on Tuesday it’s because there were.
In swimsuits, on the sidewalk outside of the Seneca Niagara Casino and Hotel, 17 women from around the world posed in preparation for today and Thursday’s beauty pageant events sponsored by MWI International, headquartered near Detroit, MI.
“MWI stands for magnificent women icons,” explained pageant spokesperson Syndee Keitt, as the group enjoyed lunch at the casino buffet on Tuesday.
These are a different type of beauty pageant contestant, not the typical ingenue, Keitt said. Most are women who are 35 and older, and seven contestants are over 50. All have spent some time getting comfortable in their own high heels and care as much about their causes as they do the $5,500 pearl-embedded crown, she said.
“There are a variety of women in this pageant,” Keitt explained. “Some are lawyers, some are executives, some are homemakers, but everybody has to have a platform or a community service they are passionate about. You cannot just come into the pageant and be pretty.”
This is the second year of the organization’s pageants, and will include two new categories. One is for women aged 20 to 34; and the second is for women 50 and older. The original category is for women 35 and older.
“There’s a lot of fun, a lot of excitement and beautiful women in gorgeous clothes,” Keitt promised.
The contestants come from many places including Vietnam, Africa, India, the Philippines, Venezuela. The 2012 queen in the 35 and older category is Juanita Brown Ingram, an attorney from the United Kingdom, who will pass her crown on Thursday. Because several contestants were unable to attend, the inaugural crown for the 20 to 34 age group will be given to Michele Ball, 17, of Lewiston, a senior at Lewiston-Porter High School, who was appointed to the spot by the show organizers.
The preliminaries for women ages 35 and older will be held today at 4:30 p.m. in the Bear’s Den inside the casino. The inaugural crowning of the MWI beauty in the 20 to 34 category will take place around 5 p.m. At 3 p.m. Thursday will be the pageant for the women 50 and older. At 7 p.m. Thursday will be the crowning of the contestant in the 35 and older age category. The evening competition will include swimwear, haute couture and evening gowns.
Along with national judges from fashion and talent venues, local judges include: Kelly Mac of Mac Fitness Studio in Lewiston, Ron Primerano of Primerano Fitness; Clair Gee and her husband, Judge Hugh Gee of the Town of Lewiston, Sharon Luskin of Lewiston and Gerald Amendola of GMA Properties. Mac’s husband, Hollywood stunt flier Craig Hosking is an alternate judge.
The group of beauty contestants has been visiting throughout the region, including a stop at Family and Children’s Service Monday where they left stuffed bears for children in the Passages program whose lives have been touched by domestic violence.