Ms. Senior U.S.

Local contestant, Strang Senior Center coordinator, crowned

A trail-blazing 65-year-old West Knox County woman has been named the first Ms. Senior United States.

Lauren Monahan, coordinator of Frank Strang Senior Center, was crowned inaugural queen of the 2018 Ms. Senior United States program in a ceremony Wednesday, Dec. 13, at the Center.

The honor was bestowed by Ms. Senior Universe Donna McGuffie of Birmingham, Alabama, on behalf of the Ms. Senior Universe Pageant.

Monahan already was serving as 2017 Ms. Senior Tennessee USA when she was given her current title. She was runner-up in the Ms. Senior USA pageant, and was due to compete in the Ms. Senior Universe pageant in Las Vegas just three weeks ago, when her husband, Buz, was suddenly diagnosed with heart failure.

“I was already packed when [my husband] called and said they were putting him in the hospital,” said Monahan, who immediately cancelled her trip.

As Buz recuperated, pageant organizers — disappointed she was unable to compete — had a plan to create a new senior pageant system, and asked Monahan to serve as its first queen, which she said she was “thrilled and honored” to do.

Wishing to crown her quickly, and realizing she still could not leave her husband, officials decided to bring the pageant to Monahan. They arranged for her crowning at Strang Center, where she already had planned a Christmas celebration.

“It was just so precious that they were willing to come to me,” she said last week prior to the ceremony, which took place in front of a packed crowd.

Also crowned was Debbie Watts of Nashville, who took over the Ms. Senior Tennessee USA duties from Monahan, whose current honor caps a decade of senior pageant participation.

Except for a brief pageant experience in college — a successful one, as she came in first runner up in the Miss Florida pageant — Monahan said she is “not one of those people” who has been on the pageant circuit for years.

“[But] when I found out there was a pageant for married ladies, I thought it sounded like it might be fun,” she said. “And, I’ve had a wonderful time.”

She has placed at the state and national level more than a dozen times over the years in contests focusing on talent (her signatures song is “I Dreamed a Dream” from the Broadway play “Les Miserables”) and personal philosophy, not just poise and looks.

“My philosophy is ‘never give up your dreams,” she said. “just because you reach a certain age, it doesn’t change how your mind feels, and you should not act differently.

“I want to have fun and be silly, and enjoy life. I will not ‘sit in my rocking chair,’ and I won’t let my seniors do that either.”

Monahan is in her 18th year as coordinator at Strang Center and has no plans to retire — from anything.

In addition to her full-time job, and since Buz is well on the road to recovery, Monahan said the work is just beginning in her new role as Ms. Senior United States.

“It is such an honor, and I am so humbled [to receive the inaugural crown], but it is also a responsibility,” she said. “I see it as a job, and will go to work making appearances, one of which will be escorting an upcoming Honor Air Flight to Washington D.C.

“I am really looking forward to that.”