Mar 30, 2010

Liberty student crowned Miss Lynchburg

by Sarah Stockslager

“When they announced my name, I got this really shocked look on my face. I took my walk around the stage with my crown and flowers. While passing the (judges) table, I thanked (the judges) a million times.”

A pageant novice, Heather Harley did not expect to win her first pageant. But that is just what she did.

A Liberty senior majoring in fashion merchandising and interiors and minoring in business, Harley was crowned Miss Lynchburg at the Miss Lynchburg pageant on Feb. 27 at the James River Conference Center.

“I was just doing it for fun. I’ve always wanted to try out for a pageant because I thought it would be my niche,” Harley said.

Also an incentive for entering the pageant were the prizes Harley received: a $750 cash scholarship, an $8,000 scholarship to Liberty University and an all-expenses-paid trip to the Miss Virginia pageant, according to The News & Advance.

Harley will represent Lynchburg at the Miss Virginia pageant in June in Roanoke, according to the News & Advance. The pageant will be a week long, and the competition will be televised once the top 10 have been announced, according to Harley.

“I know it’s going to be a lot fiercer competition,” Harley said.

The Miss Lynchburg pageant consisted of several categories in which the 14 contestants were judged.

Earlier on during the day of the pageant, the interview session took place.

“I stood in front of the judges’ tables, and they asked me questions for 10 minutes,” said Harley. “I tried to be funny and light and airy with them.”

The pageant began with an opening number, during which all 14 of the contestants were introduced.

Next were the swimsuit, talent and evening wear rounds. The talent portion was worth 35 percent of the judging, according to Harley.

Perhaps the most significant part of the competition was the on stage question, where Harley was asked about her platform — sex trafficking.

“I gave the statistics about sex trafficking, hoping the numbers would speak for themselves and shock people into action. This is an industry that generates $32 billion a year,” Harley said.

The charity Harley represents is Love 146, whose mission is to abolish child sex slavery and exploitation, according to Love 146’s Web site.

“What Love 146 does is go in, take the girls out (of the trafficking business) and take them to safe houses,” Harley said.

Harley tailors her message about sex trafficking depending on the age of the audience.

Over spring break, Harley spoke to a group of 3rd through 5th graders about staying safe on the Internet, especially on Facebook. She also read stories to preschoolers about being careful around strangers.
With several speaking engagements already under her belt and more to come, Harley hopes to raise awareness in the Lynchburg community.

Harley has been singing since she was young and took seven years of vocal lessons. She sang the Whitney Houston version of “I Will Always Love You” during the talent portion of the pageant.
Though this was her first pageant, Harley is no stranger to trying out for competitions. She tried for American Idol in 2007.

Hailing from Lancaster, Penn., Harley said her mother and grandfather are her mentors.

“My mom keeps me extremely grounded. When I went home for spring break, I went tanning a few times. My mom said to me, ‘You’re going to turn into a diva. Don’t turn into a diva,’” Harley said.

Harley says her grandfather is always supportive, and he is a great man of God.

After graduating, Harley hopes to open her own wedding planning business.

Contact Sarah Stockslager at


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