Sixty is but a number


Elizabeth Purtee, 61, Reno, was first runner-up in this year's state Senior Nevada Pageant. She was encouraged to consider representing another state that was looking for a talented contestant. She then competed as Ms. Washington and finished top 10 out of 42 contestants in the national Ms. Senior America Pageant.

How many women participated in the pageant?

It was 42 women this year. There were a few of the smaller states but because of the expenses they aren’t able to hold a pageant. That’s why they encourage more states to have at-large candidates. This is where they assign someone to represent their state for them. That was the privilege I got to do with Washington.

What was your favorite part about doing this pageant?

My talent. I was excited to present it and worked really hard on it. I’m a ballroom dancer, but I couldn’t have my husband up there leading me. I had to do it on my own. My ballroom teacher helped me put together a jazz dance to Christiana Aguilera’s “I’m a Good Girl.” My pageant director said I needed to add something to it, like singing. So my husband paid for a voice trainer for the first time in my life. So I had two months of voice training only twice a week. I sang and danced to the song, and I was very proud because I was competing against women who had been singers for 30 years.

What were other talents?

Singing and dancing was very popular. For singing, there was a lot of opera. These older women are amazing with their opera abilities. We had some comedians just doing comedy skits. They were great. An unusual one, Ms. Wisconsin did a baton-twirling thing. Another women did a kind of ventriloquist thing with a male and a female.

Has this sparked a new interest for more pageants?

It was a one-time deal. I’m going to be very involved in helping in Washington. I’ll help promote and find the beautiful women I know Washington has. So I’m going to be traveling around up there and recruit senior women.

Does Nevada have a pageant?

We have a huge pageant in Nevada, but when I participated in it back in August I was the only one from Northern Nevada. All of the other contestants were from Las Vegas and the surrounding areas. So I want to use my influence here and traveling around to encourage the beautiful women of Northern Nevada to participate. It’s like anything—win or lose, it doesn’t matter. I know it sounds cliché that everyone is a winner, but you are because you learn and grow. …

How was this pageant different from the one you did in 1983?

The age is one big difference. The pageant in ’83 didn’t have a talent portion. We had swimsuits. I actually think this one was more substantial because back then it was just judging in your evening gown, swimsuit and the interview portion. There was no philosophy of life, there was no talent, and it was all about the looks.

Do you have any advice for women thinking about doing a pageant?

It’s just so much fun. You meet talented, accomplished women from around the United States. It was amazing. Sometimes you hear, with all these new reality shows, about cattiness among women. There was no such thing in this national pageant. Everyone was so beautiful and helpful. Plus your eyes really get opened to what the “new” senior women look like. They are talented, beautiful, accomplished women. They are not the grandparents I grew up with, believe me. You can see we aren’t diminished or less because we are older. We are of a whole new time and energy. We still have new adventures and new creations we can be a part of, and that is exciting.