Elegant ... Empowered ... Exciting!
Senior Center Women Shine
May 31, 2018
By Sandra Coopersmith
"Elegance is not the prerogative of those who have just escaped from adolescence, but of those who have already taken possession of their future." Coco Chanel
To find vibrant, outgoing and elegant women, you need look no further than the Culver City Senior Center, where seven very capable representatives impressed the audience and judges Sunday afternoon, May 20, as Culver City Senior Citizens Association and Culver City Exchange Club presented their search for Ms. Culver City Elegance 2018, ably abetted by Show Director Judie McAskill, a longtime Culver City resident, artist, performer, and dedicated supporter of senior events, and Show Coordinator Marilyn Kohler, an entertainer, retired director of the Ms. Senior California state pageant, and Honorary Ms. Senior America 2008.
The search was open to women 50 plus and members of the center. They would be judged on formal attire, personal interview, charm and personality, with the winner to appear at several community events throughout her year. Having covered this event since it first started in 2016, I was excited to see how this year's version would play out, and I was not disappointed.
Master of Ceremonies Richard Champion and Music Director Margaret Brown, Ms. Senior Orange County 2004, kept the pace just right as the program, which commenced with a welcome by Debbie Cahill, the center's Senior Program Specialist, and included crowd-pleasing guest performers and a raffle, proceeded to delight and enlighten the audience.
Francia Fate, President Elect of Culver City Exchange Club, gave the pledge of allegiance, and the national anthem was movingly sung by Dr. Klyda Mahoney, Ms. Senior California 2002.
Joyce Perlick (foreman), Kohler (doing double duty), Jeff Cooper, Albert Vera, and Sharlene London comprised the hardworking panel of judges.
The superb and stunning guest performers were Lea London (Ms. Senior Ventura County 2015) and Mahoney, who both sang, and Syni Champion (Ms. Senior Culver City 2010 and G.L.O.W. Girl World founder), who gave a spoken word performance.
The contenders were Barbara Wright, Dorris Woods, Jo Flynn, Linda Brice, Lorrie Maynard, Nina Moskaluk and Irene Boscoe, all of whom looked lovely, seemed to have fun strutting their stuff, and handled the judges' questions with aplomb. I was especially moved by Flynn, who was asked, "If you could have one wish, what would it be?" Her poignant response was "to bring my parents back and find out what they were like, not as parents but as people in their 20's and 30's."
Deborah McMahon, Ms. Culver City Elegance 2017, recapped her year and introduced her own "seventh inning stretch" by asking us to stand, raise our hands and put on an imaginary crown as we repeated a mantra of strength and belief in ourselves and our personal power.
It was now awards time, with McAskill presenting a special award to the group member whom the seven women had been asked to secretly vote on earlier in the day as having been the friendliest and most helpful during the past two days. Flynn was the thrilled awardee.
The three elegance awards were then announced, with third place going to Moskaluk, who had a retail sales career, and second place to Boscoe, who was born in Prague, Czechoslovakia and entered Ellis Island at age six. Flynn, who was actively involved in a theater group and has a dog-sitting boutique, pulled a double by capturing the title of Ms. Culver City Elegance 2018.
It was a most enjoyable day, and over its course I had an opportunity to privately pose a question of my own to a few of those present:
"How do you define elegance?"
According to videographer and photographer Brent Backhus (RealTimeCopies.com, 310-559-9095), whose photography accompanies this article, "it's personality, because personality shows up on tape and in pictures. Makeup and clothing help, but it's really personality."
For Cahill, "it's pride in who you are, and it's appropriate that this is taking place in May, which is part of Older Americans Month, the theme this year being 'Engage in Every Month.' Ms. Culver City Elegance personifies that theme."
"Charm, personality, being friendly, taking risks – elegance means being sure of who you are," said McAskill.
McMahon defined elegance as "being top quality, being conscious of your presence, having manners, integrity, purity. We need to bring these qualities back to our culture and banish mediocrity. Elegance is being willing to step up and take a chance to be better."
"Elegance comes from within," said Flynn. "It's who you are, not what you look like or how smart you are. It shines from within, how you present yourself to the world and how you communicate in kindness. Being thoughtful speaks to your integrity and that's why the congeniality award is so especially meaningful to me."
As noted fashion maven Diana Vreeland, apparently on the same page as those I questioned, once said, "The only real elegance is in the mind; if you've got that, the rest really comes from it." And if the goal of events such as this is keeping the older generation active, visible, and aware that elegance is a matter of attitude, then kudos to all involved for a successful, entertaining and thoroughly inspiring afternoon.