Little princesses grow confidence, make friends at Miss Louisiana 2017
Katy-Lynne Coughran used to be so shy she would hide behind her mom around people she didn’t know.
When her mother, Tabitha Collins, became friends with Yvette Redman, the organizer of the Miss Spirit of the Ouachita pageant.
Collins thought that maybe the Fleur de Lis Princess program would help her daughter overcome her shyness. Katy-Lynne was 5 at the time. She was paired with Amy Matherne, then the reigning Miss University of Louisiana at Monroe, and a more experienced Fleur de Lis Princess.
“I really didn’t think she would do it when we first did it. But the lady that she did it with was really, really nice. Amy was very nice, very helpful, encouraging. The little girl that had already done the Fleur de Lis Princess program was really nice, too, and she’s an outgoing person so she just kind of carried Katy-Lynne along with her and wouldn’t let her be shy. Like, she just kind of carried her on. They went on and it just kind of shocked me that she got up there. It was a neat experience” Collins said.
Now, at age 9, Katy-Lynne is participating again.
According to DeLaine Guice, the director of the princess program, the Fleur de Lis Princesses are a group of approximately 65 girls between ages 5 and 10 who escort the contestants onstage during the evening gown portion of the pageant. They perform dance numbers several times throughout the show. Up to 4 princesses are paired with each contestant. Often, they know the contestants ahead of time but sometimes they are paired randomly with a contestant in their geographical region.
They participate in other events throughout the week, such as Wednesday’s Dillard’s Style Show at Pecanland Mall, where they walked the contestants down the runway.
Katy-Lynne usually escorts the winner of the Miss Spirit of the Ouachita pageant. This year, her contestant is Molly Humphries, who currently holds that title.
Collins said Katy-Lynne has become more confident and more talkative since she started the princess program.
“She’s become friendlier,” Collins said. “A lot friendlier.”
Katy-Lynn said that making new friends is her favorite part of the program. That, and being onstage.
Rowan Wyatt, 8, also likes to be onstage. She started in the princess program 3 years ago. That first year, she was Miss Holiday in Dixie 2015 Ashlynn Lanford’s Fleur de Lis Princess. Last year, when Lanford took a break from pageants, Rowan escorted Miss Monroe 2016 Samantha Vaughn.
This year, she will walk with Lanford again. Lanford, who currently holds the Miss University of Louisiana at Monroe title, is a friend of the Wyatts.
Lanford makes time for Rowan throughout the year, according to Rowan’s mother Megan Wyatt.
Lanford read to Rowan’s second grade class at Swartz Lower last year. The Wyatts helped her raise money for Children’s Miracle Network. After Monday’s press conference at which contestants introduced themselves, she chatted and posed for pictures with Rowan and her younger sister Quinn, who also wants to be a Fleur de Lis when she’s older.
Rowan said that she learned to “walk pretty” - with her back straight, shoulders back and head high so her crown won’t move - by watching Lanford. It’s a skill she uses when she escorts Lanford onstage during the evening gown portion of the pageant.
Neither Wyatt nor Collins had any previous experience with pageants.
Collins grew up playing softball. She said she could help her sons play baseball but was out of her comfort zone the first year Katy-Lynn participated in the princess program.
“When she said yes I want to do this, it was, ‘Oh my gosh, what have I got myself into?’” Collins said.
She has come to enjoy the experience, however.
“Going to Miss Louisiana would not have been on my bucket list of things to do and now if Katy-Lynne ages out, we’ll just take her and go.”
Wyatt’s mother-in-law Debbie Wyatt is the secretary for the Miss Louisiana Organization’s Board of Directors. She encouraged Rowan’s parents to let her try the princess program for a year.
Three years later, Wyatt said she enjoys it, too.
“I didn’t think I would love it as much as I do but I enjoy [it]. It’s a whole week worth of activities and we enjoy going and meeting all the girls.”
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The Fleur de Lis Princesses start pageant week at 9 a.m. Wednesday morning. They have rehearsals throughout the day where they learn the choreography for all the dances they will perform. They rehearse Thursday, Friday and Saturday, too.
Wyatt takes Rowan and Quinn to most of the events that week, starting with the press conference.
“It’s a full week of stuff we have to do. I was kind of surprised about that. So, we don’t plan anything the week of Miss Louisiana. There’s no time,” Wyatt said.
Collins said she packs her Suburban with Katy-Lynn’s dress, shoes, hairspray, hairpins, makeup and other clothing on Wednesday. They live in West Ouachita so there isn’t time to drive between home and the Monroe Civic Center between events. Thursday, Friday and Saturday, Katy-Lynn applies her makeup and does her hair at her step-father’s office in Dooley Haddad Bail Bonds, Inc., near the Ouachita Parish Courthouse.
Both Wyatt and Collins said they have met nice people and made new friends through their daughters’ involvement in the princess program.
“I would recommend it,” Collins said. “It’s expensive but I would recommend it.”
Collins paid $475 for Katy-Lynn to participate in the Fleur de Lis Princess program for the Miss Louisiana and Miss Louisiana Outstanding Teen pageants this year. The Fleur de Lis Princesses' registration fees will help pay for the scholarships awarded to the winners of the pageants.
"It is a mentoring program but it's also a fundraiser that funds scholarships for the contestants," Guice said.
The fee also pays for the Fleur de Lis Princesses' crowns, t-shirts and a few meals throughout the week of Miss Louisiana. Families buy their own tea-length white dresses, which the princesses wear to escort the contestants onstage, as well as shoes to go with their dresses. Princesses must also provide a pair of white shorts, which they wear during their performances during Miss Louisiana.
Both Katy-Lynn and Rowan said that older Fleur de Lis Princesses helped them during their first year of the program. Now, they help younger princesses.
Katy-Lynne said she can help them learn their way around the Civic Center.
“When they need water I usually bring the chair over to the thing.”
Rowan offered advice for Fleur de Lis Princesses who get stage fright.
“Close your eyes and think of good stuff before you go on. Then look at the crowd. They’re cheering for you.”