MANCHESTER – This year’s Ms. Senior America was just crowned after a 3-day pageant at Resorts Casino Hotel in Atlantic City on October 19.
Queen Carolyn Slade Harden, who lives in the Renaissance at Manchester, won the state crown at the Ms. New Jersey Senior America pageant this summer. Her modest reason for throwing her hat in the ring was to volunteer more and give back to her community.
“I had no idea that I would actually win the national title as well,” she said.
The “Age of Elegance” competition is designed for women who are 60 years of age or older. Harden shared her philosophy, gown, private interview and talent with the judges, singing “For Once In My Life,” to earn the title of queen.
She has been singing since she was young, having studied opera at Arts High School in Newark and landing starring roles in Madame Butterfly, Aida and Carmen. She also performed in gospel groups alongside Dionne Warwick, Dee Dee Warwick and Cissy Houston, and served as choir director at churches throughout the state.
Although she will likely perform in other states as part of her Ms. Senior America duties, Harden said her role will also focus on recruitment.
“We do have a platform – it’s primarily to inspire our peers and mentor the youth – it’s considered the Age of Elegance and letting our peers know that there’s more to life, don’t stop living, it’s never too late to pursue your dreams and to be active, and we still have a lot to give and we’re encouraging other women to do the same.”
This year, 37 states participated in the Ms. Senior America pageant out of 40 that were on the roster. Harden hopes to get the word out to additional states and encourage more women to become involved. She said there are many women out there doing good work in their communities, but who may not be getting recognized.
She also hopes to link up with more youth, in particular to get more colleges and universities involved and to mentor students. This is something she already has some experience with through her Harden Institute for Financial Independence, or HIFI Club. She helps young people, some of them members of her own family, which is stretched across 36 states, learn the importance of money, plan for their future, and get financially ready for college.
“It will be a busy year,” she said, “A bigger crown and a lot more responsibility.”