“Hello. I’m Desiree.”Desiree Williams held out her hand to Bob Earls, who turned 82 the day before, and Jim Lynch.
Not everybody gets a handshake or a hug from Miss Virginia, but Earls and Lynch and a number of other lucky guests at Richfield Retirement community did last week.
Even if they didn’t know who she was, the four-point rhinestone crown tipped off senior citizens in the day room of the Recovery and Care Center that Desiree Williams was more than an everyday visitor.
She didn’t act like it, though. Miss Virginia 2013 knelt down next to those in wheel chairs or sitting and introduced herself simply as “Desiree” to people like the ones she plans to spend her career working with every day.
For her year of Miss Virginia appearances, Williams took a year off from completing studies for a doctorate in physical therapy at Hampton University. The opportunity to earn scholarship money by competing in the Miss Virginia Pageant is what led her to compete in the first place, Williams told members of the Rotary Club of Glenvar at their lunch meeting on April 29.
She was first-place runner up in the 2012 pageant. In 2013, she earned the top prize, the tiara – and $35,000 in scholarships. “I took on a load of debt for the doctoral program,” she told Glenvar Rotarians, “and now I will be able to graduate debt free because of the Miss Virginia scholarships.”
The club meets at Richfield, and Admissions Director Scotti Hartman had arranged for Williams to visit with residents in the RCC afterwards. I was lucky enough to have Miss Virginia help me back into a wheelchair and accompany us down the hall after the meeting on the way to physical therapy for my new hip.
Williams answered questions about her life as Miss Virginia. “What questions do you have other than, ‘Do I live in a castle?’ ”
She doesn’t, although the Miss Virginia organization provides an apartment for her home base in Roanoke during her reign. In addition to a pink Kia from Hart Motors in Salem she gets to use for the year, she is provided with a Citgo gas card, and although has some lodging money for out-of-town appearances, “I kind of just find friends to stay with,” Williams said. “I try not to abuse the privilege of wearing the crown and sash.”
The 24-year-old’s first experience in pageant life was while at Hampton University, she said. “I just wanted to be homecoming queen. I told my mom one-and-a-half weeks before the Miss Virginia competition. That night, I called her and told her I won. She said, ‘Won what?’ ”