Quest for the crown

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Cocanougher wins debut pageant, advances to Miss Kentucky competition

 Washington County’s own Sarah Cocanougher will compete in this summer’s Miss Kentucky Pageant in Lexington. 

In her debut pageant appearance Feb. 24,  Cocanougher, 18, was crowned Miss Cardinal Country in Louisville, as part of the Miss University of Louisville

Eleven contestants competed, but only two advanced from the group with a title, conferring upon them a chance of capturing the Commonwealth’s most prestigious crown this June — Miss Kentucky. 

The pageant is also a preliminary competition for the Miss America Organization. 

“This was my first pageant ever, so in order to prepare, I went to a pageant coach a couple months before the pageant,” said Cocanougher, a UofL freshman majoring in psychology. “I knew I had a lot of work to do, and I couldn’t have won without the help from my family, the G Studio [in Harrodsburg] and my friends.”

Cocanougher’s title came with a $1,500 cash scholarship. She also received a $200 cash scholarship for winning the Best Evening Gown category.

“I wore a red dress that I actually ordered online and it fit perfectly when I got it,” she said. “So it was a miracle that I had a dress that actually fit me.”

Cocanougher said she plans to debut a new gown at the Miss Kentucky pageant.

As part of the talent portion of last week’s contest, Cocanougher sang A Change in Me from the musical, “Beauty and the Beast.”

“I’ve been in singing competitions and sang at church so I was used to singing and being in front of people,” she said. “I was however nervous about tripping over my dress or messing up on my onstage question — but luckily I did neither.” 

Cocanougher dismissed pageant critics who believe they objectify women and focus primarily on physical appearance.  

“Pageants are based on community service and how well-rounded a woman is,” she said. “It doesn’t matter how pretty a contestant is, but how much she gives back to her community.”

While Cocanougher will use the next few months to focus on the state pageant, she said she really just wants to enjoy the experience. 

“Not many girls get to be in the Miss Kentucky pageant, so I’m just glad I get the opportunity to experience it this summer.”

And don’t expect Cocanougher to give some trite answer about world peace, if state pageant judges ask a tough final question this summer. 

“I watch every episode of ‘Here Comes Honey Boo Boo,’” Cocanougher joked about the TLC show’s notoriously outspoken beauty queen. “She’s my real inspiration.”

The Miss Kentucky pageant is June 27-29 at the Singletary Center for the Arts on University of Kentucky campus in Lexington. 

Cocanougher is the daughter of Tim and Ruth Ann Cocanougher, of Springfield, and the granddaughter of Cyril and Louise Nally, of Fredericktown, and Jim and Margaret Cocanougher, of Springfield. She is a 2010 graduate of Bethlehem High School in Bardstown. She plans to pursue a master’s degree in occupational therapy.