A Camellia blooms

Published 12:00 am Saturday, September 28, 2002

Last year, Miss Camellia, Ashley Stidham, passed her crown on to Scarlotte Deupree not knowing that the 22 year-old Sylacauga native would carry that crown all the way to the Miss America pageant and come away one place from the crown.

Scarlotte Deupree, Miss Camellia 2002, last Saturday competed with 49 other women in the Miss America pageant and came away as the first-runner-up.

&uot;I was shocked when I made the top five,&uot; said Deupree. &uot;And then there were only three of us, and I was really scared then. And after they announced Miss Oklahoma (Casey Preslar) was second runner up, I turned to Erika (Harold) and we just broke out crying. I just knew she had won. I even told her that she had won.&uot;

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Scarlotte says her mother, Joy Deupree, first introduced her to pageant competition when she was three years old.

&uot;Sylacauga is a lot like Greenville,&uot; she said. &uot;The Miss Sylacauga pageant is a part of the community. Everyone wants to be a part of it.&uot;

Deupree said her mother always enjoyed the glamour of the Miss Alabama pageant and frequently took Scarlotte to the annual show.

&uot;After I got involved in it, I quickly realized it wasn’t as glamorous as it looked,&uot; she said. &uot;This is so much more than a beauty pageant. There wasn’t a girl out there that wasn’t attractive. It’s all about achievements.&uot;

Scarlotte said that she had problems while growing up in finding what she was good at doing.

&uot;I tried cheerleading and failed at that,&uot; she said. &uot;I tried a lot of everything. I even tried out to be a majorette and oddly enough the day after I failed at that I read a magazine article on this illiterate Texas millionaire. The man had made a fortune but couldn’t read or write. Well, at the end of the article was an advertisement for a class instructing people on how to teach others to read.&uot;

After completing the course on Law Bach literacy in Birmingham, Scarlotte said she returned to Sylacauga and started teaching an older woman to read. Soon after she said she discovered Sylacauga had a real need for a literacy program. So she started one.

&uot;The program went on to help 25 people in the first year,&uot; she said. &uot;I always loved to read and I am an English major in college.&uot;

Scarlotte attends Samford University in Birmingham, Ala.

&uot;Being from Alabama, I had a real taste of what its like at the Miss America pageant as our program is also really large,&uot; she said.

Scarlotte arrived in Atlantic City, after a brief visit to Philadelphia, Sunday September 15 and said that she had to immediately begin rehearsals and practicing.

&uot;We practiced eight hours a day for three days. The instructor was really good and I’m glad there was only one production number – the opening performance,&uot; she said. &uot;When you’re on live TV, there is no room for mistakes.&uot;

Scarlotte said her favorite competition that week was the interview round.

&uot;I wanted to be Miss America so that I could take my reading program nationally,&uot; she said. &uot;I really believe in adult literacy, particularly for women. Men are important too, but the woman is usually the one who teaches the child to read.&uot;

Scarlotte also said she enjoyed the evening gown competition.

&uot;My father (James Deupree) escorted me and that was very special,&uot; she said. He’s always had a lot to do with my pageant career, just as much as my mother even.&uot;

The one event Scarlotte said she was not fond of was the swimsuit competition.

&uot;The whole time your up there you don’t even realize your on camera,&uot; she said. &uot;It was a lot of fun though. I really got to know some of the contestants and plan to continue friendships with them later.&uot;

Though she did not win the title &uot;Miss America,&uot; a poll taken from the contestants showed that they believed she would win the title.

&uot;Now that the competition is over, I’m just going to return to Alabama and continue my campaign for adult literacy. I already have several planned appearances.&uot;

As Miss Camellia, Deupree was awarded a scholarship of $4,000. As first-runner-up in the Miss America pageant, Deupree was awarded a scholarship of $40,000.

&uot;I plan to pursue my Master’s degree, though I don’t know where yet,&uot; she said. &uot;It will be at whatever school best supports my platform of literacy.&uot;