Norco native Erika Laken Beck became the first participant from St. Charles Parish and the River Parishes to take the stateís top pageant honor.
Beck competed against 69 other pageant queens from throughout the state in her third attempt at the Queen of Queens title after previously winning titles in three of the past four years at the St. Charles Parish Sugar Festival, as Ms. Cypress Swamp Festival Queen and as Queen of Hearts.
She credited her experience in the competition as a large part of the reason she won.
"It is a once in a lifetime thing. Out of 69 girls what are the chances I am going to win? It was third time so I just figured that I would go in and have fun and not stress about winning," Beck said.
She took a casual approach to the interview portion of the competition, which she believes put her over the top.
"I wasnít rehearsed. I spoke from my heart and said what I truly felt," Beck said. "A lot of girls prepare for questions. I just decided to talk to them like a normal person. I sat down, scooted my chair up and spoke from the heart like a real person and I think that is what won them over."
Charlene Bruce, Louisiana Association of Fairs and Festivals queen coordinator, said to be chosen Queen of Queens is a great honor going back to when the first Queen of Queens was chosen in 1958.
"It is associated with our annual festival every year in Baton Rouge," she said. "The main reason is to celebrate the success of all of our fairs and festivals throughout the state, and the Queen of Queens festival is a climatic ending to the whole convention."
In a two-part competition, participating queens went through a private interview in front of five judges and modeled an evening gown of their choice.
"Then the top 15 selected from the highest cumulative scores have a final onstage question. That score is added to their top total and determines our top five and ultimate queen," Bruce said.
Beck will now go on to represent Louisiana by traveling to more than 100 fairs and festivals statewide until relinquishing her throne at the 2014 Queens of Queens competition to be held next February.
"She now represents all of the fairs and festivals throughout the state of Louisiana and associations. She also represents the festivals in Norco and all of the festivals in Louisiana. It is a huge thing for not only the festivals, but southeast Louisiana as well," Bruce said, "As Queen of Queens her job is to promote all of the festivals in the state from Shreveport to Buras. She covers the entire state and will be a busy lady for the entire year."
During her reign, Beck will be compensated for travel expenses and at the end of her time as Queens of Queens she will receive a $1,500 scholarship.
As part of her travels, Deck will also be promoting a non-profit enterprise aimed at expanding reading amongst the stateís children.
"I also have a platform called the Book Buddy program. At LSU–Eunice the athletic trainers would go to the local elementary schools and read to low performing students and actually try to help them increase their reading scores. I am trying to spread it throughout state," Beck said. "They are our next generation and we need smart, intelligent kids so that is also what I am trying to promote now."
For Beck, winning the Queen of Queens pageant was the culmination of many years in pageantry.
"My mom put me in pageants when I was six months old and I have not stopped since. Iíve been doing it my whole life," Beck said. "I started traveling the state when I was 13 after I won Ms. St. Charles Parish Farm Bureau."
After this year Beck will be hanging up her gown for good.
"I am going to be 23 this year and this is going to be my cut off and then you have to go into the married division," she said. "And Iím not married yet."
Beck is currently enrolled as a business student at the University of Louisiana–Lafayette after graduating from LSU–Eunice last year with an associateís degree in business. She said it is her ultimate goal to take her education and one day open a business of her own.
"I want to open up a huge sportsplex warehouse that has indoor turf and personal training with professional trainers and a nutrition shop," Beck said. "It would be a place where young kids could come hang out, instead of being in the streets, and give them more confidence in life."
As for now, she is very content with representing the stateís tourism industry through the Louisiana Association of Fairs and Festivals.
"My job is to promote tourism and get people to come see all of our festivals," Beck said. "Itís not just about beauty, itís about being intelligent about our agriculture, community and economy because it is getting hard these days and people need to know about what is going on in the world."
On April 8, Beck will get a chance to speak to state legislators.
"I will be meeting with the Senate to speak about tourism and how festival queens can help attract people to the state," she said. "People donít know what queens do for our state."
|Courtney Priola, Miss Mardi Gras of Southwest Louisiana; Macy Leblanc, International Rice Festival Queen; Erika Beck, Queen of Queens and Queen of Hearts; Caroline Porter, Miss Cajun Hot Sauce Queen; Lincoln Pearce, Miss Sabine Parish Fair Queen.|