Elia Lopez is already busy preparing for the 2015 Ms South Texas Senior Pageant and she is looking for women ages 60,70, 80, 90, or better!This pageant is an exclusive pageant that celebrates the strength of women 60+ married, single or divorced. The pageant celebrates and recognizes senior women’s achievements in their personal, professional and community lives. This year Lopez is introducing an award for community service.  For information please contact Elia Lopez by calling (956) 357-1636

I had the pleasure of covering this event, and my story was published in the March 2014 issue of Beyond Arts Magazine.

Now more than ever senior women dispel myths about aging by living productive lives and providing inspiration to those around them. We see them starting new businesses, writing memoirs, traveling, and most of all; staying healthy and beautiful. Providing a platform for women over 60 to display their philosophy of life, talents, and elegance is what the Senior America Pageant is all about, and today thanks to Elia Lopez, South Texas seniors have a chance to be part of this constructive program.

Harlingen native Elia Lopez retired after 43 years of a successful career in the medical industry. A nurse and an entrepreneur, she owned three nurse aide training schools at one time, and served as the director of a health care program at Del Mar College in Corpus Christi, Texas among several other ventures. Elia’s passion for empowering senior women motivated her to accept an invitation to participate in the Ms. Coastal Bend Senior Pageant in 2010 where she won and had the opportunity to represent 16 counties at the Ms. Senior America Pageant. As the only Hispanic out of 24 participants, Elia finished third 3rd. “It took me a whole year to prepare for this. During that time I even took flamenco dance lessons to showcase as my talent,” said an enthusiastic Elia adding that she found inspiration in San Benito native Hortencia Mirror; Ms. 1995 Senior America Queen, and the only Hispanic to ever win this title.

Upon returning to the valley in 2011, Elia had one goal in mind: to bring the Ms. South Texas Senior Pageant to her hometown. Elia’s determination fructified in 2013 with the first Ms. South Texas Senior Pageant where ten beautiful contestants competed in three categories: interview, evening gown, talent and inner beauty. The winner of the 2013 Ms. South Texas Senior Pageant was Camelia Rendon from Laredo, Texas. “Camelia was the epitome of a queen. She attended every single event possible, and always with a great attitude,” affirmed Elia.

Camelia Rendon

The 2014 pageant was held on Sunday February 23rd at the Harlingen Municipal Auditorium in front of a crowd of enthusiastic supporters cheering for their favorite gals. Sitting in the gallery were three individuals who had the surmounting responsibility of choosing the new queen. Dan Broadway, the executive director of John Knox Village in Weslaco, Melissa Broadway of Odyssey Hospice, and Rick Trevino a dance instructor and consultant who has worked with the Brownsville School District and the University of Texas at Brownsville. “Events like these are important especially for contestants because it motivates them to stay physically active and have something to look forward to and stay in shape,” said Melissa Broadway. All three judges stated they were looking for contestants who were confident, had stage presence, and had a big smile. Their confidence, and how they transmitted that to the audience was very important to the judges.  “I fell in love with the ladies during their interviews; they all have tremendous inner beauty which makes it very tough,” said Rick Trevino. After careful deliberation, the judges made their decision. The 2014 Ms. South Texas Senior Pageant winner was Mrs. Mary Jo Vela who got the crowd roaring during her dance performance of Frank Sinatra’s New York, New York. Mrs. Vela was also voted as Ms. Congeniality by pageant participants.

Senior Pageant Contestants

Now that the 2014 queen has been selected, it is time for Elia to start looking for next year’s contestants. Finding talented ladies has not been a problem according to Elia, but family – especially husbands – are not always supportive. From the beginning Elia was warned that events like these were not accepted well in South Texas, but that never deterred her from giving it a shot. “I knew I could make it work,’ said Elia adding that she took $500 dollars from her savings, and trusted  her entrepreneur experience and the support of her husband to help her make this event happen. More than her business experience it is the love for helping women succeed and be happy that drives Elia who is involved in every aspect of the pageant, from the first interview to training the contestants twice a week for a couple of months, to finding their talent. “Most say they don’t have any talent, but I always find at least one,” said Elia who typed 32 pages of poems, so one of the ladies could have her poetry book published just in time for the pageant.

Nothing can describe what goes on at these pageants better than a quote found on the Senior America Pageant’s website that reads; More than a beauty pageant it is what America is about; a re-affirmation of life and self-worth, of laughter and tears, of inner beauty and outward charm.

Elia Lopez