BEKAH PENCE | Courtesy Photo

BEKAH PENCE | Courtesy Photo

Typically, a beauty pageant isn’t associated with spiritual promptings, but for 29-year-old Bekah Pence, her experience was the exception.

Pence, who recently returned from a mission in Las Vegas, Nevada, entered a beauty pageant and won the Ms. Virginia United States title.

The pageant was held in Richmond, Virginia on April 12.

Pence said she had never competed in pageants before, but she saw it as a golden opportunity to make a difference and to use her morals on modesty to show the world what is possible if you follow your faith.

Pence said she used her faith as her foundation in the competition.

Pence said she always had a desire to compete in beauty pageants but never found the right timing or sufficient funding.

Pence said her mother competed in pageants during her young adult life.

Pence said she really admires how her mother held true to what she believed.

“My mom did pageants when she was younger, and when I found out about the opportunity to compete, I was really excited to do it,” Pence said.

Pence said the experience was one of faith and trust and she looks forward to the upcoming competition in July.

“I’m just grateful for this opportunity that Heavenly Father gave me to do something that I wasn’t 100 percent comfortable with,” Pence said. “I learned to trust in Him and that I can do hard things.”

Pence said that through the entirety of the competition, she was forced to be creative in order to ensure that each outfit was modest.

She said it wasn’t easy, and even though she was the only one who wore a one-piece during the swimsuit segment, many of her fellow contestants admired her for her bravery.

Brianna Ausen, a junior majoring in marriage and family studies and a friend of Pence, said Ms. Virginia is a positive role model for women around the country.

“I love Bekah’s mindset and goal for her time in the pageant,”  Ausen said. “She has made it all about missionary work and is trying to share the gospel. I think that’s fantastic.”

Pence said that while there are some negative aspects to beauty contests, there are still many reasons to support or participate in them.

Pageants allow contestants to challenge themselves to set goals and figure out a way to reach those goals, according to Occupy Theory, an online magazine that covers current issues.

Contestants can discover an inner ambition for life that influences others around them, according to Occupy Theory.

Jordan James, a sophomore studying business management, heard about Pence through the media. He said he admires Pence for what she is doing.

“I think it’s cool that girls have a good example to follow, especially one who continually serves the Lord in all she does,” James said.

According to Duke University’s Sanford School of Public Policy, there are stereotypes at the forefront of the pageant world, and one of the goals of the pagents is to stand out and overcome those preconceived perceptions.

Pence said she is excited for the next pageant and all the opportunities that lie ahead.

“I enjoy getting to know the other pageant girls and understanding more about what my Heavenly Father wants me to learn from this experience,” Pence said.