Oct. 29, 2005 — -- Watch out for your elders, Miss America: Ms. Golden America is walking the runway.
There is a new pageant in Fort Myers, Fla., for women in their 50s and 60s. Calling themselves "early seniors," 15 women will compete tonight for all-expense paid vacation to the New Life Hiking Spa in Killington, Vt., a diamond solitaire necklace and, of course, the title of Ms. Golden America.
"There needs to be a pageant for women over 50 because these women look wonderful," said Kathleen LeSage, founder and director of Ms. Golden America.
LeSage chose these 15 women from 752 applicants, who had to submit photos and a 500-word essay about why they wanted to compete in the pageant.
The women will model tennis outfits instead of swimsuits. Women who have had extra help looking good -- such as plastic surgery or botox -- are allowed to compete.
"I really don't ask because I do think that's every woman's choice," LeSage said. "These women are all very natual, all very beautiful and have all taken great care of themselves."
And, when it comes to beauty, age is just a number.
"What does 50 mean?" said contestant Joyce O'Brien, 55, from Harrisburg, Pa. "What does a 50-year-old look like? What does a 55-year-old look like?"
"We're here to have fun," she added. "Beauty is a sign of good health."
Some of the contestants have pageant experience. O'Brien, the community liasion for the Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General, recently was a runner-up in the in Mrs. Pennsylvania pageant. Elle Nash, a 64-year-old personal trainer and owner of "Fit over Fifty" is a former Miss Manhattan.
"My favorite part is meeting everyone in the pageant, all the girls," said Nash, of Fort Lauderdale."I think now women feel free to make any choice they want."