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Bray is NGC queen

Photo courtesy of T.G. McCary

NATCHEZ — As a little girl prancing around the Little Maypole, Julia Bray didn’t have dreams of one day being crowed queen of Natchez Spring Pilgrimage.

“I’d never thought I was the pageant-y person,” Bray said.

The spotlight under the Natchez Auditorium lights was not something she ever garnered, nor was it something she craved, Bray said.

But when the opportunity presented itself to Bray and she was asked to be the 2012 Natchez Garden Club queen, she took it, despite her own hang-ups.

Bray said she looks at the experience of reigning as queen of pilgrimage as an opportunity for personal growth.

“I thought it would give me a chance to get out of my shell,” she said.

Bray said she’s never been one to want lots of attention, so she figured what better way to face her fears than to don an embellished 19th century-inspired gown, balance a crown and wave a scepter to an audience?

“(The experience) will help me become a little more confident and less shy,” Bray said.

A day after Bray was asked to be queen, she tried on the dress SHE hoped would fit.

“Mom came up with the idea to take out her wedding dress — it was (inspired) by the period,” Bray said.

When the dress worn by her mother in 1980 fit perfectly, Bray said she knew fate had stepped in, and reigning as queen was the right decision for her.

The dress is a designer gown of candlelight silk tissue taffeta.

A silk embroidered lace bertha, a cummerbund with a back bow, a bouffant skirt edged in lace and lace medallions and a chapel-length train detail the gown. A section of the cummerbund was also used to embellish sleeves on the pages’ dresses.

Sandra Stokes, of San Jay Creations, completed the lace applique on the mantilla.

Aside from adding two inches of fabric in the front of the dress to hide the hoop, Bray’s queen gown was untouched.

“That just put us on Easy Street,” Bray’s mother, Katherine, said.

Bray said she felt lucky to find a crown and scepter locally — right on Franklin Street.

The crown was purchased at the Towers Collection. While shopping, they noticed the crowns and learned they were on sale. Shop owner Ginger Hyland also ordered a scepter for Bray.

Additionally, Bray’s gloves were hand sewn locally by Carrie Lambert.

Bray is the daughter of Katherine and David Bray of Natchez. She is the granddaughter of Katherine L. Bray and the late Francis P. Bray of Woodville; and Willie Katherine Percy and the late Carter Percy of Ellerslie Plantation in West Feliciana Parish, La.

Bray is a 2010 graduate of Cathedral High School. She attends Copiah-Lincoln Community College in Natchez. Following Co-Lin, Bray hopes to study art at Mississippi University for Women.

She has volunteered at Magnolia Hall and Ellicott Hill as a hostess and has been a cotillion assistant for six years. She enjoys Pilates, reading, writing, traveling, shopping, hiking, painting and watching old movies.

Bray’s past pageant participation includes Little Maypole, Big Maypole, Placard Bearer and Page in 1997.

In lieu of traditional gifts, Bray has requested that donations be made to the Natchez Garden Club for the restoration of Magnolia Hall.

Bray said she looks forward to putting her Pilates, which she has been practicing to improve her poise and posture, to work during her reign as queen.

“I thought I would never do it, but I’m honored to have this opportunity,” Bray said.