Braxton Citizens' News, Community

Braxton native recently named Mrs. West Virginia

Amber Haddix will compete in national contest in August

By Shirley Shuman

Amber Haddix was no stranger to beauty pageants when she decided to compete for the 2023 Mrs. West Virginia America title. She and her sister had often competed in the Braxton County Fair pageants. Last year she entered the Mrs. Braxton County pageant at the fair and won. That was the first experience she had had  with competition since she graduated from Braxton County High School. However, this year, she not only entered the Mrs. West Virginia pageant but came away with the title on April 29, 2023.

Haddix explained that a few years ago “some friends and co-workers suggested I enter the pageant.”  Because she “liked everything [the contestants] stood for” and she “would be able to bond with other married women,” she began considering the move. “I figured I could have a little time to dedicate to myself,” she explained.  As a result, she resolved, “I’ll do something for myself,” and she entered the pageant.  She was quite pleased that Gary Beamer and the Braxton County Fair Board paid her expenses during the competition held in St. Albans.

The West Virginia pageant has two divisions, Haddix pointed out—the Miss West Virginia contest and the Mrs. West Virginia America Contest. The Mrs. West Virginia Contest consists of  three categories: a personal interview, a swim suit competition, and an evening gown competition. The largest portion of the scoring, 40%, comes from the personal interview with a panel of judges. Each of the other two categories accounts for 30% of the total. Haddix commented on  competing in the swimsuit division. “You just close your eyes, step out on stage and say ‘I’m here,’ silently, of course,” she joked. “Actually, I did have a little bit of nerve. I’ve always thrived on competition,” she added.

Contemplating her year of reigning, Haddix noted, “At this point, it’s still somewhat surreal.”  She continued by asserting, “It is an honor to represent my community and my state. It is a bit overwhelming to think of the national pageant which spans a course of 10 days in Las Vegas, but it’s also a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity—unique and exciting.”

Braxton Countians  realize that Haddix, an eighth-grade English teacher at Bridgeport Middle School, has abundant support from her father and mother, Rob and Cathy Pecora and her sister Brittany. Their support is added to that from her husband Heath and son Riley as well as many friends and acquaintances.”

As a teacher, Haddix knows the needs of young people, and her platform, “Young Minds, Great Leaders,” reflects her goal. She explained that she wants to emphasize “the whole aspect of accountability” to show these individuals that they can make a difference, that they are important, and to “build that aspect of accountability and responsibility.” In her effort to achieve her goal, she hopes to “reach out to those students who may be on the fringe to encourage them to find their voice themselves, to be a part of their school and their community.”

Her effort to reach these young people has already begun. She visited the Sutton Library  the day the staff began their summer reading program. There she worked with the younger children in the morning and “tweens” in the afternoon. Her afternoon work consisted of encouraging each of those present to create an “Affirmation Jar,” in which they placed strips of paper containing “things they like about themselves,” she noted. Then, Haddix explained, when they feel useless or just “down,” they are to pull out a strip of paper to affirm themselves.

This was the kick-off for Haddix. She plans other activities including visiting summer school once it begins,  and by attending 4-H meetings and many other gatherings of young people. Just last week, she drove from her home in Bridgeport to the Clay County Golden Delicious Festival to work with the festival’s pageant. With pageants, Haddix believes, “We’re able to empower young women.”

Amber Haddix is determined to use her year as Mrs. West Virginia America to plant the idea that accountability and responsibility must begin with the young. She declared, “What I do is extremely important. I feel that [I have] the opportunity to be the influencing factor in their lives.” With the experiences she has had, including 11 years of teaching, she may well be right.