They still spring forth from twisted roots, thick marshes, stark hillsides, rushing rivers, dark coal mines and hard red clay soil of Alabama, a veritable Bevy of Beauties. Let us never forget that Stars Fell on Alabama, that Hank Williams wrote ‘Hey Good Lookin’ , What ya got cookin’ and F.Scott Fitzgerald found his Zelda right here in Alabama.
It’s no coincidence that Southern girls aren’t just cuter, they are stunning beauties. We know this from birth; like Strands of Steel woven through lace christening gowns, ruffled petticoats and tulle tutus. For a select group there is an almost immediate affinity for sparkle, sequins and crowns. Their eyes flash with fury, the art of flirting comes naturally at an amazingly early age. Charmingly, disarmingly and alarmingly they manage to get their own way, especially with their daddies, brothers and beaus, who are more than happy to go along with it.
Some prefer hats and are devastating, some wear Hollywood style sunglasses all year round, some prefer to wear their crowns- All. The. Time. And others insist on over-accessorizing. We allow it, we encourage it and just between me and you? It’s easier than arguing them down.
We crown our daughters for every conceivable Fruit, Flower or Nut- not to mention Cotton, Crisco® and Congeniality! For others, the Tutus and Dance costumes aren’t reserved just for recitals but worn everyday. Recently, I saw a tiny girl with a running suit on with wide bands of sequins down each tiny arm and each tiny leg- her mother said the child loves it so much she has to wash it while the little girl is sleeping! It must be said, that those who are born loving sparkles often get the crown– we have spawned more than one Miss America right here in Alabama and Southern Beauties win more often than any other region of the United States! We may be the Land of Cotton but someone somewhere has made a killing off thousands of yards of tulle for years now- ball gowns, prom dresses, homecoming courts, beauty pageants, cotillions and Mardi Gras.
Even Senior Centers have beauty contests- I have warned my family if the day ever comes when they think I need to be assisted in living, even though I’ve never won a beauty contest in my life-it will cost them a fortune in sequined pageant dresses, because Southern ladies nevah evah give up hope! It would be a mistake to think these beauty queens are all fluff- many go on to become lawyers, surgeons, executives, artists, teachers, engineers and even rocket scientists. If you research the Southern Bevy of Beauties, you will find articles have been written throughout the years- all asking and trying in vain to answer the question of why Southern women are so much prettier- some say it’s the extra amount of sunshine, others say it is the humidity that makes their skin glow and their hair so full. Some say it’s the slower pace or the sweet southern drawl, some say it’s handed down from generation to generation from folks who have stayed in one place. Some say it’s training or other less desirable reasons- which, to be honest, hurts my feelings to read such nonsense.
To pigeonhole Southern Beauties would be a mistake- some are as soft and gentle as Wood Violets, some live as large as Magnolias, some cover pain and heartache like the sweet scent of Confederate Jasmine, some are more like creamy Gardenias you can’t miss ’em but they bruise easily; others are late bloomers like the Glory Bower. Then there are those who simply bloom at the wrong time- like Camellias, our Winter Rose. We name them for our indigenous flowers, for our ancestors and some are so precious we’ve named them Jewel, Ruby, Opal and Pearl. Then there are some who are quicker than a lightning bug can blink- so we’ve nicknamed them for Junebugs and Katydids.
They are as sparkling as our Rivers, they giggle and babble like our bubbling Springs, they are as tough and spunky as Pig Iron but soft as Moonlight and twinkle like Stars. There is an intoxicating mix of culture in the South- more Flags have flown over the Deep South than any other. The spice blend of American Indian, Spanish, French, British, African, Greek, Italian, German and Caribbean not only influenced the very food we eat but contribute to our sweet and spicy Bevy of Beauties. Most of my ancestors were of European descent, yet I have an American Indian great grandmother aptly named Bama. Whole counties, rivers and towns bear names like Choctaw, Etowah, Tuscaloosa and Cherokee. In the county where I live, the will of a Cherokee Indian Princess is on record. Of course she was a Princess! No other region of America has been so ravaged by war and gone down a trail of bitter blood sweat and tears like the South. We’re still struggling with the aftermath. It is undeniable that Beauty is Born out of Trouble. Is it any wonder that our Daughters are a Bevy of Beauties?
We teach them that to be well received, they must have good manners, high standards, be well dressed, have a winning smile, get good grades and be good citizens- secretly we know that beauty and brains is a devastating combination! So, from generation to generation- we revel in their beauty but admire good posture born of backbone and courage. Oh my, how I do run on!
Love y’all, Camellia
*Photographs are the personal property of the community of Camellia’s Cottage and should not be used without permission. * Photograph of ‘Katydid’ was taken by Hollis Ellison a wonderful photographer!
*Some of the vintage beauties are from Ash-Clairma 1961, the high school annual of Ashville, Alabama where surely some of the most beautiful ladies on earth were born.
* ‘Hey Good-Lookin’ was written by Alabama’s own Hank Williams.
* Zelda Fitzgerald was from Montgomery, Alabama.
*Alabama has had three winners of the Miss America Pageant®, over 20 were runners up and countless have been finalists and special award winners, including our very funny Award Winning Author- Fanny Flag.