Jan Gilmore is an inspiration for beauty pageant hopefuls.
“[My family and friends] encouraged me and said, ‘You’re beautiful Jan, go do it.’ And I kept saying, ‘No, I’m not the right size or shape to be in a pageant,’ ” Gilmore tells Arkansas Matters.
So with her family and friends cheering her on, Gilmore entered her local Miss Conway County pageant, and won the title, along with six out of eight subcategory awards, including Miss Personality and Miss Photogenic.
“I thought, wow, this is amazing,” she says. “Anybody can do it.”
“She’s not the average pageant girl, but I was still rooting her on the entire time,” Gilmore’s daughter, Brooke, says.
Her big win gave Gilmore the courage to enter an even larger competition, the Arkansas Mrs. Fair Queen Pageant.
“It took a lot of courage to get up there on that stage, because everyone there was very small,” Gilmore says.
But she still dominated, and ended up placing second, becoming Mrs. Arkansas State Fair Queen First Runner-Up.
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Gilmore did have one critic, but she took the higher ground.
“I overheard [another contestant] talking to another girl, ‘A chubby girl beat me!’ and I was like, ‘Shine like a superstar.’ That’s what I said! And I walked away,” Gilmore says, laughing. “In a sense, what she said was true. But I was like you know what? I’m beautiful just like everyone else. Everyone deserves a chance and I won fair and square.”
And Gilmore won over the crowd.
“I’ve had people even tell me that they have hope in mankind now, because of me being in that pageant and actually winning,” she says. “We are all beautiful in our own way.”