After 10 years on the pageant circuit and four attempts to take home Kentucky’s top prize, Laura Jones was crowned Miss Kentucky 2016 Saturday.
Jones, who competed as Miss Danville, will represent the Bluegrass in the Miss America Pageant, Sept. 11 in Atlantic City.
The 23-year-old said this pageant season she seemed more at ease than in previous years.
“I just felt such a sense of peace through the whole process,” said Jones, the crown freshly placed on her head and a fake eyelash coming loose from an avalanche of tears.
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Jones was mobbed by dozens of fellow contests in satin, jewel-toned gowns after the outgoing Miss Kentucky, Clark Davis, pinned the spiky, sparkly headpiece into place.
Jones, a graduate of Kentucky Christian University, said her platform will be focused on helping young women dealing with eating disorders. It is a personal issue she has struggled with and only recently felt comfortable talking about in public. She said she hopes to mentor young women to help them avoid the problems she faced, she said.
Thirty contestants from across the commonwealth came to Lexington after winning individual titles including some intriguingly named preliminaries such as Miss Heart of the Parks, Miss Goldenrod and Miss Historic Stearns.
She succeeds Davis, of Lexington, who was crowned last year also beating out 29 other contestants.
This year’s competitors had been in Lexington for a full week learning dance routines, doing charity work and secretly sizing up other crown holders. Cash scholarships totalling $45,000 were awarded during the competition.
Aside from the current contestants, former Miss America and Kentucky native Heather French Henry was a star of the night, winning a standing ovation for a vocal performance and appearing throughout the evening in array of gowns ranging from a sparkling red with a crop top, a form-fitting black number with rhinestone accents and a strapless dress with a pastel floral print.
Talia Horn, Miss Jefferson County, was first runner up.