Some people like to make fun of Katie Knowles, calling her a "prissy beauty queen," she said, but the Mooresville native - and reigning 2011 Carolina Dogwood Queen - only smiles, laughing all the way to the bank.
Knowles, 17, pocketed $1,250 in scholarship money while wearing the 2010 Miss Mooresville High School crown. She anticipates earning yet another $1,000 toward her tuition at Appalachian State University after serving as visiting royalty Sept. 5 at the first-ever Iredell County Agricultural Fair Queen Pageant.
The inaugural fair pageant was organized by board members of the Carolina Dogwood Festival Pageant, who approached the Iredell Fair about putting on the event.
"There are some really great scholarship opportunities out there for girls, if they're interested, and not so worried about what other people might think of you," said Knowles.
It takes flying in the face of perception, being able to forget about stereotypes often attached to pageants, and not merely being "a Barbie doll," she said.
"It's not just wearing the crown on your head. It's being given the opportunity to do some good for your community," said Knowles.
A similar philanthropic vision informs the reign of Mooresville's Debbie Miller, 45, Mrs. North Carolina 2011. She is an outspoken advocate for "Go Red For Women."
"Go Red" is a national campaign sounding the alarm that heart disease is the No. 1 killer among women, causing more deaths than even breast cancer.
Miller's parents suffer from heart disease. Her father had a heart attack only last Christmas, and each of her parents has undergone open-heart surgery.
"I've had some close friends who couldn't understand," Miller said. "They think it's superficial."
Fundraising is her goal.
"Of course you can do these things without participating in a pageant," she said. "(The pageant) just brings a higher visibility to the cause."