Newly crowned Miss Wayland wants to make a "dramatic" impact

Release Date: November 9, 2009

PLAINVIEW – Lesley Gatlin had to be absent the night contestants for the Miss Wayland Baptist University pageant drew numbers for their spot in the lineup. When she returned, she learned she drew No. 13, the last spot in the pageant and, for many, an unlucky number.

Not really a superstitious person, Gatlin said she wasn’t really worried about the number as much as she was being the last to share her talent after a sea of gifted girls. She needn’t have worried, as her Broadway musical number won thunderous applause and set the stage for her winning the crown as Miss Wayland 2010 before Saturday night ended.

The sophomore from Graham could only smile when her name was announced after the other finalists and the crown and sash handed to her by outgoing Miss Wayland Kristin Blakely.

“I knew when I made finalist that I could do this, but I just knew that Bethany (Netherton, first runner-up) had won this thing. She is awesome and I thought all along she would definitely be in the top three,” she said, noting the two became close during the pageant rehearsals. “I just started smiling while they called my name. I was just really glad since my parents and grandparents were there. It was an amazing, surreal feeling... and still is.”

Gatlin is probably most excited about the public platform the title gives her to share her passion for theatre, which is her major, and using it for ministry and mentoring. She said in the weeks leading up to the pageant, her ideas for building up community theatre and working with children and churches became more vivid, and she realized being Miss Wayland might open even more doors to seeing that dream come true.

“I started thinking about the responsibilities (of Miss Wayland), and I thought about all the things I want to do in life – theatre and missions and how I want to combine them – and I thought about how I could incorporate the title into this,” she said. “Once I started thinking about all that, I really wanted to (win it).”

Not entirely new to pageants – she participated in a local one while in high school – Gatlin said she was approached by her theatre fraternity, Alpha Psi Omega, to represent them if she had interest in the pageant. Though she was busy at the time, she decided to enter the competition because she knew several of the other contestants and thought it would be more fun.

Her talent entry was a song called “If you hadn’t, but you did” from the Broadway show “Two on the Aisle,” and she enlisted the help of her boyfriend Thomas Hoffman, a 2009 theatre graduate of Wayland and veteran of the WBU stage himself, as a “prop.” She said her original thought was a number from “My Fair Lady” but vocal coach and fellow thespian Rachel Morgan Williams encouraged her to pick something more modern and creative. After seeing another actress’ performance of the song on You Tube, she knew it was perfect.

“I wanted to do something funny, because the last time people saw me on stage it was really dramatic and heavy,” Gatlin said, noting her lead role as Tillie in The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds last spring. “I wanted to do something sassy and fun.”

Gatlin said though the long rehearsals and details of the pageant were tiring and sometimes hard to fit into a busy college student’s schedule, she enjoyed it all, especially the dance practices and choreography of the opening number. She felt pretty confident through the entire process, and after hearing the final question posed to the finalists – what one experience at Wayland will stay with you for the rest of your life – she felt even better about her chances.

“I was not expecting the question to be that personal. I thought it would be something about society, politics or the economy,” she said. “It was something I could answer with a very honest, clear heart. I felt really calm immediately after that.”

Her answer gave yet another peek into her passion for theatre, noting her first lead role and how she enjoyed diving into the character’s heart and experiences to connect with audiences. It mirrors, in many ways, what she hopes to do with the new crown.

“I’m excited to get to perform more, because that’s my favorite thing to do,” she said. “Not only do I want to represent Wayland for the alumni and the donors that benefit us financially, I also want to inspire a whole generation of perhaps future Wayland students. I also want to encourage others to express themselves and not to be afraid to pursue that kind of life.”

Netherton, a junior psychology major from Tucson, Ariz., was first runner-up, while sophomore Jackie Sotelo of El Paso, a business major, was second runner-up. Lubbock native Aly Evans, a sophomore vocal music education major, was third runner-up, and Spearman native Sharon Haney, a junior business education major, rounded out the top five as fourth runner-up.

Individual awards were presented to the contestants with the highest scores after the top three finalists were removed. Best Interview went to Courtney Hickman, who also was named Miss Congeniality. Sharon Haney won Best Evening Gown and Best Talent.

Gatlin is the daughter of Gary and Donna Gatlin. She is in Wayland Singers and works on the yearbook staff. She served as freshman class president her first year at Wayland. Miss Wayland wins a prize package of scholarships and gifts from local businesses.