When Nancy Scott, former Miss Cherokee, took over as coordinator of the Miss Cherokee competition in 2000, the last thing she expected was for the competition to be sued.
Allegations that Miss Cherokee didn’t conform to the competition’s informal code led the organizers to try to strip her of her crown and the then-Miss Cherokee sued to keep it.
The lawsuit threatened the very existence of the competition, which had been running successfully since 1958. Nancy and the other organizers met with Principal Chief Chad Smith, who told them that the program had to adapt if it were to survive.
“I said I wanted to continue with the program,” Nancy said, “And I already had ideas for changes I wanted to make.”
Ultimately, Nancy believes the program benefited from being sued because it gave the organizers the impetus they needed to improve it.
During the 1980s and ’90s,the Miss Cherokee competition had drifted toward a mainstream pageant format, with an increasing emphasis on personal presentation. Contestants were asked to model eveningwear and business attire.
Under Nancy’s guidance, these categories were removed and the competition was renamed the Miss Cherokee Leadership Competition.
“The biggest change was that it was no longer seen as a pageant,” Nancy said, “We wanted to create an environment simulating what the girls would actually be required to do if they won.”
It wasn’t the first time that the usually retiring Nancy had surprised people by taking up a challenge. As a girl, Nancy had watched her older sister win the Miss Cherokee competition and thought, “If she can do it, I wonder if I can?”
“I was very shy and it surprised a lot of people that I wanted to run.
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