A grandmother from Kentucky, USA is proof that age is just a number after winning her first pageant at the age of 60.
Karen Russell, who is now 61, has so far taken home five first-place crowns after waltzing down the pageant runway alongside much younger women.
Karen, who is a retired quality co-ordinator, said: ‘There’s nothing better than on a gown and makeup then walking down the runway.
“I wear false eyelashes and do my own makeup ahead of a pageant. Sometimes, I even wear seven-inch heels on stage which is not bad for a 61-year-old.
“I have competed against drop-dead gorgeous women in their forties and still won. I just step on stage and be myself. A judge once said I talk too much and my hair is too big – but I still won.”
Karen says that many of her younger counterparts look up to her, “as [she is] proving age is just a number.”
It all started when, last year, Karen was approached by a man in a hardware shop who asked her to participate in a Kentucky war veteran pageant. After a few days thinking about it, Karen agreed, saying the cause ‘melted her heart.’
The retiree says she’s never got stage fright but finding an ‘age-appropriate’ dress is the hardest part. She said: “I lost all my evening gowns in a house fire in 2013. Everything was burnt to a crisp so I had to buy brand new ones – which is part of the fun yet the most difficult part.
“One time, I tried on multiple dresses but couldn’t even get the zip up. It turns out I was trying on prom dresses! I eventually found a stunning red mermaid dress and it made me feel like a princess. It was the first time I had got dressed up since losing my only son Jonathan, aged 32, in November 2011.”
After donating Jonathan’s organs to save other people’s lives, Karen made it her mission to spread love and positivity. She realized pageants are the perfect place to raise awareness of the importance of organ donation.
Karen said: “I never in a million years thought I would ever enter a pageant. But now, I feel like I have found my calling. I’ve never felt sorry for my circumstances – I’ve always found something beautiful from it. Being a beauty queen isn’t all about looks, it is about being charitable and helping the community. Something I am passionate about.
“I am also helping uplift the other women who are much younger than me. My granddaughter Shaylynn, 16, loves to go shopping with me as I always pick out cute outfits for her.”