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The beauty of beauty queens - Rhonda Rich

Hidden somewhere in the newspaper one day -- a tiny news blurb used to fill a hole -- was the story of a teenage Louisiana beauty queen whose crown had been repossessed by pageant officials after her brush with the law.

Memories behave oddly sometimes. You can forget all about something, then suddenly, your memory is jarred and the memory appears quite vividly.

Such was the case when I read this story. A delicious memory spread across my brain and I started laughing. How had I ever forgotten even for one moment that morning in Louisiana?

I've had some pretty interesting television experiences in that colorful state. How could anyone not love Louisiana? It's such an interesting place. Rarely have I done a television appearance there when it turned out to be bland. Usually, I leave the television station with a story.

One time, I appeared on an early morning news show where the news-show cast, because it was Halloween, was dressed up as movie characters. A real serious show, you know. It's a bit hard to focus when you're being interviewed by Dracula, who has blood dripping from the corner of his mouth.

Then, there was the morning that I turned up to do a show in Baton Rouge and the on-air host did little to hide his annoyance. It turned out that the producer had not told him I was booked for the show. To illustrate how bitter grapes can be turned into delicious jam with enough sugar added, that on-air host has turned into one of my dear friends.

Another time, I had the questionable honor of following the previous guest who had been the state's insurance commissioner and had just been indicted for fraud. "Happens here with regularity," said another guest sitting with me in the Green Room. "Always some politician goin' to jail for some such in this state."

Yes, and the politics are quite interesting in Louisiana, too. Huey Long's legacy, I suppose.

But back to the story that started all these memories of Louisiana television. I had a speaking engagement and the organizers had booked me on as much radio and television as possible, within a hundred miles, to promote the event. Though I remember the studio clearly, I do not recall if I was in LaFayette or Baton Rouge or some other town. It doesn't matter where, though, the story speaks to the importance of beauty pageants and queens in Louisiana.

When I and the media escort arrived at the studio that morning, we were greeted by a swarm of crowns. You have probably never seen the likes of what I witnessed that morning. For over an hour, I just watched and shook my head in amazement.

There were about a dozen young beauty queens appearing on the show that morning to promote something. Probably a beauty pageant. They were all under the age of 15, adorned in banners and spectacular tiaras that would blind the sun. They were enormous.

Some of the glittering crowns were two feet high and plopped down on the heads of little girls weighing no more than seventy or eighty pounds. I was stunned beyond words.

"I've never seen anything like these crowns," I said over and over to the lady with me.

She laughed. "We like our beauty pageants in Louisiana."

When the producers put the young girls on the stage for their television glory, they had to turn off two overhead spot lights. The crowns provided their own spotlight.

Next, the interviewer welcomed me warmly. I replied, "I'm happy to be here though I feel quite unadorned." I smiled. "And plain."

After the show, the queens wanted their picture taken with me. A thorn among the roses. Somewhere out there, is that photo. If you ever see it, you'll know which one is me.

I'm the only one without a crown.

Visit www.rondarich.com to sign up for Ronda's weekly newsletter. She is the best-selling author of the new book, "What Southern Women Know About Faith."