SPARTANBURG—Lanie Hudson shared a small, sacred moment with her mother each day during competition at the 2014 Miss South Carolina pageant.
Mrs. Hudson took a treasured bottle of blessed water from the Holy Land and made the sign of the cross on her daughter’s forehead before she rushed out the door to rehearsals, preliminaries and the all-important final night.
The 23-year-old was crowned Miss South Carolina at the Township Auditorium in Columbia on June 28. The bottle of holy water carefully kept on the TV stand in their hotel room was just one symbol of the vibrant Catholic faith that has surrounded Hudson since birth and helped her deal with the stresses of pageant life.
“It’s really kept me grounded through the whole experience,” she said. “I keep a spiritual journal, and I had my Bible and inspirational books with me throughout the week of the pageant. I say a prayer before going into interviews and other events. It really calms my nerves.”
Hudson is one of three children of Alex and Sherry Hudson, and a member of St. Paul the Apostle Church in Spartanburg.
She graduated from Paul M. Dorman High School and Clemson University, where she majored in communications. She hopes to use the $25,000 scholarship she received as Miss South Carolina toward a masters degree, with the ultimate goal of becoming a professional buyer in the fashion industry.
Mrs. Hudson said pageants became a part of her daughter’s life in high school. Before that, Lanie focused mainly on her love of dancing. At age 5, she tried clogging, which quickly became her passion.
Over the years, she appeared all over the state with her clogging team and even appeared with them on the popular show “America’s Got Talent.” In this year’s pageant, her talent was a clogging routine to Aretha Franklin’s “Think.”
Dancing didn’t take up all her time, however. Church played a big role. She taught vacation Bible school classes at St. Paul the Apostle, played on church sports teams, and was active in the youth group.
At 16, Hudson decided she wanted to try pageants, and competed in Miss Spartanburg Teen. She eventually finished third at the Miss Teen South Carolina pageant and decided to give Miss South Carolina a second try after finishing fourth in 2013. This year she competed as Miss Anderson.
Pageants aren’t all sequins, pretty smiles and glittery crowns, she said. Preparation is demanding, and includes everything from grueling physical workouts and dance rehearsals to researching current events, because contestants never know what judges might ask them during the interview segment. During the pageant, she answered a question about whether Americans should be allowed to protest outside abortion clinics, in light of a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling about the issue.
“My faith helped me answer that question, because I do believe people should have the freedom to protest, as long as everyone is kept safe,” Hudson said.
She is also passionate about her platform, “The Gift of a Lifetime: Saving Lives through Organ and Tissue Donation.” One of her uncles received a kidney and pancreas 15 years ago and is alive today, she said. Then, a high school friend died in a car accident and seven people benefited after her family chose to donate her organs.
“Through those two experiences, I learned the power of donation and how lives could be saved,” she said. “A lot of people don’t know what it means to be an organ donor or how to even become one. One person can save up to eight lives.”
Pageants also teach unique lessons, such as how to be a successful quick-change artist. Need to get to the dressing room, change from a talent costume into an evening gown, and get back to stage in 10 minutes? No problem.
Since her win, on some days she makes appearances in three parts of the state. Hudson frequently bounces between her home in Spartanburg, an apartment that pageant officials maintain in Hartsville for her and Miss South Carolina Teen, and friends’ homes in Columbia.
“There are always different events, photo shoots, interviews, a celebrity softball game,” Hudson said. “I’ve learned how to pack and live out of my car.”
She is also preparing for the upcoming Miss America pageant in Atlantic City in September. Hudson and her family think she may be the first Catholic to wear the state crown, but no historical information is available either from pageant officials or diocesan records to confirm or deny that.
Either way, she said, she knows her faith played a role in her victory and hopes to show others what God can do if you let Him.
“This experience has really taught me that God is always with us and the Holy Spirit dwells within us,” Hudson said. “I think God was thinking through me. It isn’t always me doing the performance, it was the Lord dancing through me, and showing who Christ is, me being an example and a servant to Him.”
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