Beauty pageants are not events that just happen by themselves, as Will Isgett can attest.
He’s one of 42 local executive directors of preliminary beauty pageants in South Carolina cities that culminate every year in the Miss South Carolina pageant. In 2010, the Miss South Carolina Board of Directors voted him the best of the bunch, for the pageant he directed in his hometown of Darlington.
“I’m pretty much a one-man show. I plan the pageant — write the script, oversee a thousand details. I put a lot of hard work into it because I’m passionate about it,” says Isgett, 37. “I’m going to do this as long as I can, as long as my health holds out. I can tell I’m getting worse, but I’m still able to do things.”
In 2004, Isgett,
learned he has Becker muscular dystrophy. He had worked as a newspaper journalist for 14 years, but as the disease progressed, he eventually retired. He now walks with the help of a cane.
He still does some freelance writing for his local paper, but devotes most of his energies to running the Miss Darlington and Miss Darlington Teen Scholarship pageants. That’s where his heart has been for years, anyway.
“When I was young, my family was very involved in beauty contests, and I always told myself that if I had a chance, I’d become a director,” Isgett recounts.
Simply wishing for it didn’t make it happen, however. Even though he’d volunteered at pageants for years, Isgett had to buy the Darlington beauty pageant franchise in order to become its local executive director. The town of about 7,000 hadn’t put on a pageant in 11 years, when Isgett resurrected it in 2008.
Darlington is best known for Darlington Raceway, home to an annual NASCAR Southern 500 Race; Isgett notes that his win, “puts us on the map in another very positive way.”
The townsfolk and businesspeople in Darlington obviously agree. They contribute a lot, Isgett says, in monetary and merchandise prizes to benefit the winners of their local beauty contests, and they’re proud to once again to have their young ladies representing Darlington in the big pageant down at the capital.