Seventeen-year-old Bedford resident Kayla Layton won the 2011 Miss Hampton Beach pageant Sunday, an honor she dedicated to her grandmother -- her "inspiration."
By Kyle Stucker
Hampton-NorthHamptonPatch, August 1, 2011
[The following article is courtesy of Hampton-NorthHamptonPatch.com
Kayla Layton was having a "bad week" due to some family issues, but promised her nana she would compete anyway in the Miss Hampton Beach pageant Sunday.
Layton said her nana -- Madeline Geraghty, 84, of Salem, Mass. -- "lives" for the pageant each year. Geraghty wasn't going to be able to make it this year, though, so at least one family member had to have a great time in her place, said Layton.
That family member just so happened to be Layton.
The 17-year-old Bedford resident was crowned Miss Hampton Beach 2011 on Sunday, a win she didn't think was coming and was even sweeter knowing how her nana -- her "inspiration" -- would react.
"The first thing I'm going to do is call her," an ecstatic Layton said moments after besting 24 others for 65th Miss Hampton Beach crown. "She'll be so extremely proud of me."
Layton also took home Miss Congeniality and the top score in the interview round of the pageant, a round which several judges said put Layton "over the top" due to her "genuine personality" and caring nature.
The 25 contestants, all of whom ranged in age from 16 to 24 years old, each competed Sunday in evening gown and swimsuit rounds to help showcase various talents like poise, grace and intelligence.
Layton, a senior at Goffstown High School who hopes to go to college in New York or Boston and get a Ph.D. in international business, said she "grew up" during summers on Hampton Beach, and said she looks forward to being its spokesperson for the next year.
"I love that opportunity," she said, admitting she was "overwhelmed" by the honor and was shaking backstage after being named in the Top 5. "I'm going to represent it as best as it can be."
Seabrook resident Lauren Small, 20, placed fourth in Sunday's competition and by far received the loudest cheers from the 100 or so people watching the pageant on the temporary Sea Shell Stage.
Brittany Dube, 21, of Hampton, placed fifth in the competition, while the other finalists are as follows: Ashley England, 17, of Londonderry, placed third and won the swimsuit competition; and Rebecca Scalera, 21, of Derry, placed second.
Mary Bertolino, 18, of North Hampton, also competed, although she didn't place.
Steve Camara, Layton's boyfriend, said his "stomach turned inside out" when he watched his girlfriend be named to the final two, and said it was "surreal" to watch the "sweetest" person he knows win the top prize.
"She's a really, really good person," said Camara, of Candia. "She's sweet to everybody."
England, Layton's "best friend" since the two met during Layton's first pageant at Miss Teen New Hampshire last year, said the pageant was "easier" because of Layton.
England also said she couldn't have picked a better person to lose to -- which is a good indicator of why Layton's fellow contestants chose her as Miss Congeniality, a prize given to the most helpful, supportive and kind competitor.
Pageant staff and past winners also had great things to say about Layton.
"She's so sweet," said Megan Cooley, Miss Hampton Beach 2010. "She talked about the Indian Chief [whom she met at a Hampton arcade trying to win stuffed animals for the Salvation Army]. It was a great story, and we just knew then. It put her over the top."
That example of generosity has stuck with Layton and inspired her to do more, and those around Layton said having the chance to see her take home an award after so much for others was incredibly gratifying.
"I'm really in awe," said Camara. "I'm so proud of her."