Cathedral senior, Vidalian selected 2012 Miss Vidalia

Published 12:15 am Thursday, February 2, 2012

Rod guajardo / The Natchez Democrat — Lena Mallory Martin proudly displays the crown and sash awarded to her during the 2012 Miss Vidalia pageant Saturday.

Vidalia — Five days and hundreds of congratulations later, Lena Mallory Martin still can’t believe she won 2012 Miss Vidalia.

“I never expected to actually win,” Martin said. “It still really hasn’t hit me yet.”

Martin, a senior at Cathedral High School, beat out 10 other girls competing for the coveted position.

The pageant, which took place Saturday at the Vidalia Conference and Convention Center and is sponsored by the Vidalia Women’s Club, consisted of different categories for judging including gowns, dance and an interview portion, which Martin said was her shining moment.

An interview portion before the pageant tied Martin and another contestant with the honor of best interview.

Submitted by Van’s Photography — 2011 Miss Vidalia Alexa Mallory crowns Martin at the pageant.

Martin said she felt extremely comfortable during the interview.

“I felt more like I was sitting down with my friends talking,” Martin said. “They practically told me to tell my story.”

During one part of the interview however, Martin said she broke down in tears recapping a tough portion of her life.

Martin was diagnosed with Retinoblastoma, a rare cancerous tumor of the eye, when she was 11 months old.

Even though Martin said she’s told the story plenty of times, the pressure of the pageant got to her during the interview.

“I got all wishy washy and cried when I started talking about my cancer and growing up,” Martin said. “It was more just me being nervous and stressed out though.”

Growing up with cancer is one of the reasons Martin said her family decided to send her from Vidalia public schools to Cathedral in eighth grade.

The disease resulted in her left eye being removed and Martin said it caused some ridicule from her peers when they were younger simply because she looked slightly different.

“I just needed a change,” Martin said. “Growing up with it I was bullied a lot, but over the years we got older, and, I made friends with everyone and it’s just not that big of deal anymore.”

Martin said growing up with the disease as a child affected her self-confidence and that was the ultimate motivation to compete in the pageant.

“I was nervous about it and I didn’t want to do it at first, but then I started coming around and I knew I could get up there and do it, I just needed someone pushing me,” Martin said. “For me, that was my mom. She thinks I can do anything.”

After lots of convincing from her mother and several weeks of preparation, Martin found herself on stage answering her final interview question.

To her advantage, Martin said the question she was asked was the only one she had studied from the list of possible questions given to the candidates.

“They asked, ‘If you could sit down and have dinner with three people who would you choose?’ Martin said. “I said my mom’s two parents and my dad’s father, because I never got to meet them and I’ve always wanted to learn more about them and how they grew up.”

As the group of contestants started getting smaller and smaller, Martin was in disbelief that she was still on stage and even had to be reminded that she had won the crown.

“They announced the runner up, and I just stood there and everyone was like ‘That means you won!’” Martin said. “I was confident and I knew I could do something I just didn’t think I could win the whole thing.”

After taking dozens of photos and eventually taking of her 5-inch heels, Martin said the victory still didn’t feel real the next morning.

“I woke up and my mom was like, ‘You’re Miss Vidalia,’” Martin said. “It still sounds weird to me.”

Martin said she hopes to use the victory to spread a positive message to young children who might have had difficulty growing up like she did.

“I just want to show younger kids that they can be anything they want to be as long as they believe in themselves and to not let anyone get them down.”