Thursday, July 7th, 2011
“One day, I was out with my neighbor, picking up lunch before going to play pinochle. We got to talking with this lady in line and after a few minutes, she looks to me and says, “You know what? You would be the perfect kind of person to be in this pageant I was in.” Turns out that she was RC Turner, Miss Senior DC 2008. She gave me her card and asked me to stay in touch.I didn’t give it too much thought at the time. but my neighbor said that I should look into it. I had been involved with a pageant before, but this was back in 1967. When I was 17, I won Miss Congeniality in the Miss D.C. pageant. I just saw the experience as a great opportunity, and a way to get some scholarship money.
“After giving it some more thought, I reached out to RC in October to invite her to play pinochle with me and the other ladies at the recreation center. We had a nice conversation and she kept encouraging me to apply. Eventually I did. It didn’t seem that extreme and unlike other pageants, looks were not the focal point. I liked that personal philosophy and other elements of your personality are much more important to the judges.
“The experience turned out to be so wonderful, and the pageant allowed me talk about my love for the city. See, I am not just an African-American woman from Ward 5. I feel a deep kinship to all of Washington from Chinatown to the Latin areas to the Catholic areas. My maternal grandfather came here from South Carolina to work on the Washington Monument as a stone mason. My father’s family goes back generations in Anacostia. I had aunts who used to cook at the White House. My cousins worked on the Hill as Assistants to some of the Congresspersons. I grew up on Evarts St. NE and have so many fond memories there, including watching the construction of the Basilica. My life was filled with tales from all corners of this city. My love for all of this city helps me be a good ambassadress as Miss Senior DC. This has really been an incredible opportunity for me, and I would encourage other women to do it, too.
“One of the funniest things about the pageant is that my maiden name is Queen. Would you believe it? As a child, I used to just hate it. When they called roll in school, our teacher always used to call us by our last names first. I was Queen Sheila. I used to be so embarrassed and just wanted her to get through the roll as quickly as possible. Kids don’t want to stand out like that. Now, that I am older, I have grown into the name. I guess you can say that it is okay to be a queen now that I am over 60.”
In addition, to winning Miss Senior DC 2010, Sheila also won best talent and best interview. I asked her about her talent, singing.
“For the pageant, I performed Who Can I Turn to by Anthony Newley, but made famous by Sammy Davis Junior. I first heard that song when I was 12 years old. My Mom took me to the Lowes Palace movie theater down on F St to see The Roar of the Greasepaint – The Smell of the Crowd. When we left, I made her go around the corner to Super Music City on G St, so I could get the LP. I remember bringing it home and just falling in love. Ever since I was 12, I loved that song.”
Then, Sheila was kind enough to sing for me. Hear her perform Who Can I Turn to below.
People’s District will be taking a short break until July 18th. Until then, we share with you some of our favorite stories from the past year.