LaGrange residents Elmer and Maenette Hanners watch the DVD of the beautiful young woman taking the crown in the Miss America contest last week in Las Vegas.
But for them, it’s not just any woman. It’s their granddaughter, Mallory Hagan.
“It brings me to tears still watching it now,” Elmer Hanners said.
The Hanners have followed their granddaughter throughout pageants as she was growing up in Opelika, Ala., and after she moved to New York. They saw her come in as first runner up to Miss New York – twice.
But this time around, she wasn’t the bridesmaid at the Miss New York competition and she’d wind up taking the national crown. Her grandparents and other family members were in attendance.
“We would have never imagined it,” Maenette Hanners said. “We were just overjoyed with the fact she was gracing the stage. Then she made the top 15. Then she just kept going.”
Hagan, 24, grew up dancing; both her mother and maternal grandmother ran dance studios. At 18, she left Alabama to study dance and cosmetic marketing in New York. She found the Miss America organization at 13 and started competing in pageants under their umbrella.
“She really dedicated herself to it in the last year, working on her talent and her physical fitness,” Maenette Hanners said. Mallory is the daughter of Maenette Hanners’ son, Phillip.
“She was always physically fit, but she really worked on it. And she choreographed her own routine,” the proud grandmother said.
Hagan did a tap routine to James Brown’s “Get up off of that thing.” Her platform is child abuse prevention.
Hagan had told a neighbor as a child that when she grew up she wanted to be Miss America.
“Perhaps it’s always been in the back of her mind,” Maenette Hanners said.
Hagan may be a Miss America and media sensation now, but the Hanners know her as a compassionate young woman who loves her grandmother’s cooking and stole Elmer Hanners’ heart almost from the beginning.
Elmer and Maenette Hanners met and started dating when Hagan was about 6 years old. The three were riding in the car together when Elmer told Maenette his children were older and he wasn’t expecting any more grandchildren.
“I feel this tap on my shoulder,” Elmer Hanners said. “It was Mallory and her little voice said, ‘I’ll be your granddaughter.’”
Hagan will likely only get to come home for Christmas and Easter this year as she completes all her Miss America duties, but her grandparents could not be prouder.
“A lot of doors are opening for her,” Maenette Hanners said. “It was a great privilege just to be there (at the pageant.) We wouldn’t have missed it for anything.”