First Posted: 1/15/2009
ST. PAULS -- Her daughter, Rebekah, had been crowned Miss North Carolina nearly 24 hours earlier and Deena Revels was still surfing a tidal wave of emotion on Sunday night.
Deena, a vice principal at Parkton Elementary School, described in a rising voice what happened when she met Rebekah after judges announced her the winner of the 65th annual Miss North Carolina pageant Saturday night.
“She said, 'Mama, I'm Miss North Carolina!' ” Revels said. “She was just so excited. But she's worked long and hard for this and it's all paid off.”
Rebekah, who is 23 and the reigning Miss Fayetteville, became the second Robeson County resident in the last three years to claim the Miss North Carolina title; Lorna McNeill, who was Miss Topsail Beach, won in 2000. Revels, who was unavailable for comment, will next compete in the Miss America pageant, which begins Sept. 17 in Atlantic City, N.J.
According to Deena Revels, preparations for the Miss America competition began shortly after her daughter was crowned Miss North Carolina, when judges who critiqued Rebekah's performance attended a a post-competition reception in her honor.
“The Miss North Carolina Pageant Association gets started immediately in getting prepared for Miss America,” Deena Revels said. “She (Rebekah) was moved into one of their homes today and they took over. We only have 11 or 12 weeks to get ready for Atlantic City.”
Rebekah, a graduate of The University of North Carolina at Pembroke and a 10th-grade English teacher at Lumberton High School, outlasted 33 other contestants. The competition was held at the Memorial Auditorium in Raleigh.
Deena said awaiting the decision was a nerve-grinding experience. She said that, when the judges announced the finalists, Rebekah's was the fifth name called. The judges then announced the results in descending order.
“They went fourth, third, second, and they (Rebekah and runner-up Misty Clymer, who is Miss Western Piedmont) were standing there holding hands,” Deena said.
When Clymer was announced as the first runner-up, Deena said she was “absolutely overwhelmed.”
“There were about 150 people there from Robeson County,” she said. “We had family, church family, people from Lumberton Senior. It was just amazing. It was like that every night, but there were even more there on Saturday.
“People have been so gracious with flowers, gifts and, most of all, prayers,” said Deena, whose family has attended Ten Mile Center Baptist Church for years.
Supporters of Revels had to know things were going well for the former Miss Lumbee, Miss St. Pauls, Miss UNCP, Junior Miss Lumbee and Junior Miss St. Pauls when she won the swimsuit competition Thursday night. On Friday, she won the preliminary talent competition with her rendition of “Di Doretta,” an Italian aria from the opera, “La Rodine.”
Because the subject is close to her, Revels made Alzheimer's awareness her platform; her maternal grandfather, Quinnie Hunt, died of the disease in 1984.
As the 2002 Miss North Carolina, Rebekah's calendar is already filling up. On Wednesday, she makes her first appearance as Miss North Carolina in Raleigh. Deena Revels said Rebekah isn't expected back home until later this week.
“We didn't even get to bring her home in the van with us,” she said.
Rebekah's father, J.D., is an electrical instructor at Robeson Community College. She has a brother, J. David Revels, and a sister, Janera Terentino.
“I've always wanted to be Miss America,” Rebekah Revels recently told The Robesonian. “I've worked very hard. I'd like to say I'll be there. But if I don't, I won't be disappointed in myself. I'll just know it wasn't meant to be. But it has been a dream as long as I can remember.”
The dream continues.