Mrs. Delaware pageant, with a new contest called Miss Delaware for America, at The Grand April 27.

With Kimberly Phillips’ reign as Mrs. Delaware ending later this month, she’s already offering her successor some timely advice.

“Never waver or falter in your integrity or character. Stand strong in who you are and you will fulfill more than you could ever imagine,” said Phillips, a second-grade teacher at Nellie H. Stokes Elementary School in Camden.

Six hopefuls will vie for Phillips’ crown in the Mrs. Delaware America 2019 pageant at The Grand in Wilmington April 27.

On the same day The Grand will see the debut of Miss Delaware for America. The Miss competition is for single women. Since the pageant is new, there are only two contestants in the running.

Raquel Riley Thomas, executive director for both pageants, said she’s confident the new competition will grow in popularity over time.

“This division is for women who are single who have never been married or have been married but are now divorced, legally separated or widowed,” Thomas said.

“This division opens a door of opportunity for many women who wanted to compete in the pageant but could not,” she said. “I think after this first year of testing it out, I foresee a beautiful future for the ‘Miss’ division.”

The structure of both pageants is similar, with judging in three categories: interview (50%), swimsuit (25%) and evening gown (25%).

The contestant with the highest score goes to the national competition in their respective division. Find the pageant online here.

Here’s an up-close look at the eight women competing in the Mrs. and Miss Delaware pageants on April 27.

Mrs. Delaware America contestants

1. Alexandra Johnson, Mrs. Newport

OCCUPATION Property manager at Fedale Property Management.

HOBBIES Singing and dancing, but my greatest passion is playing softball.

What’s your platform and how will you create awareness?

The reason that I selected equality is because in today’s society we are easily targeted due to our race, gender, sex orientation and religion. As a Hispanic woman, I would like to organize support groups and/or host community meetings so I can voice my opinions, teach and encourage others that it’s OK to live differently and to love one another.

It’s important to me, because I am easily profiled due to my race. I have been discriminated against several times in front of my children, and I strongly believe it’s time to make a change, one voice at a time.

2. Helene Meister, Mrs. New Castle

OCCUPATION Tax specialist

HOBBIES Hockey, figure skating, visiting museums, art expo, watching sports and reading history novels.

What’s your platform and how will you create awareness?

My platform is equal access to justice and equal chances. I plan to advocate for more fairness and equity in our legal system, and equal access to justice. This is my platform because I dedicated my life to study law as an undergraduate in Europe and trained to become a lawyer in the U.S., and I felt those qualifications would be worthless if I was not using them to truly make a difference.

As a student attorney for a pro bono clinical program that helps poverty-stricken families to access our justice system, I realized the urgency to achieve effective representation and the difficulty for underprivileged communities to navigate our legal system. I currently volunteer for an equal justice foundation to raise funds for law students who deliver critical services to underrepresented members of our community. I plan to continue to raise awareness and advocate for equal justice during my year as Mrs. New Castle.

3. Olivia Richardson, Mrs. Dover

OCCUPATION Quality control lab technician and creative entrepreneur

HOBBIES Writing, illustrating, blogging, photography, acting and modeling.

What’s your platform and how will you create awareness?

My platform is called “Write4Hope.” I encourage women through creative writing workshops. It’s important for me to destigmatize mental health and give millennials a healthy way to deal with negative emotions. I currently have three different writing workshops that will be available online after the Mrs. Delaware pageant.

4. Aisha Ryan, Mrs. Middletown

OCCUPATION Entrepreneur and physical therapist.

HOBBIES Dancing, travelling, mentoring and spending time with family.

What’s your platform and how will you create awareness?

As the owner of a physical therapy practice, ALL Therapy in Middletown, I understand how an injury or lack of activity can negatively affect the overall health of an individual. In light of this, my platform is “movement is freedom.”

Through my practice, I conduct workshops for dancers and athletes, stressing the importance of injury prevention in order to ensure optimal sport performance. With regards to the senior population, I encourage an active lifestyle so they can maintain a level of independence as they enter their golden years.

5. Sha’Ri Smyth, Mrs. Newark

OCCUPATION Entrepreneur

HOBBIES Cooking, dancing and taking family trips. I also think I’m addicted to YouTube.

What’s your platform and how will you create awareness?

My platform is the various dimensions of health and wellness. I have lupus and fibromyalgia, and I also suffer from extreme anxiety and PTSD; and I know what it is like to experience such extreme highs and lows outside of the physical aspects of health and wellness.

I have spent the last few years spreading awareness by encouraging others through my own trials and triumphs and helping people through various ways to learn how to get over the deep squats in their lives, letting them know that they aren’t alone and that their struggle isn’t permanent.

Since November, I have had the privilege of attending more than 20 events and meeting new people. I spent the last two years building my social media following to over [20,000] by simply being me and connecting in a way that most won’t. My commitment to helping others has blessed me with the opportunity to connect with people in a way I didn’t know was possible, and I am thankful because people are encouraging me, and are letting me know that what I do and what I have to say matters, and it helps them.

6. Amy Vandercapellen, Mrs. Millsboro

HOME Long Neck


HOBBIES I love to sing and enjoy theater. I spend lots of my free time at my son’s football and basketball games.

What’s your platform and how will you create awareness?

It’s “Make A Difference For Our Youth.” I currently mentor young ladies and am currently working on a prom drive to help high school students get prom gowns they might not be able to afford. I am offering my photography services to local kids for prom, and hair and makeup services. I will continue my work with kids and teens long past prom season. That is just my current big project.

Miss Delaware for America contestants

7. Daphne Chaniz-Rico, Miss Newark

OCCUPATION Nursing instructor

HOBBIES Spending time with friends and family, learning to salsa dance, playing indoor soccer, going to concerts and sporting events.

What’s your platform and how will you create awareness?

My platform is education on violence. One in three women and one in four men have experienced some form of physical violence by an intimate partner.

I believe that it is important to raise awareness about the cycle of violence. Along with that, it is important for me to focus on providing those who are escaping difficult situations with a healthy community to find refuge.

I want to create awareness by providing information where individuals can find resources, education and be strengthened. I have a passion for education, a deep appreciation for building healthy relationships through community, and I would love to use my platform of Miss Newark for America 2019 to build a connection with local organizations to raise awareness.

I want to provide hope and help people who are trying to leave a difficult situation to know that they have resources and support that is available to help them end the cycle of violence.

Providing education on the cycle of violence is important, but another important piece is to provide individuals with resources to connect into healthy relationships. I can raise awareness for healthy relationships by partnering alongside of CityFam, which is a nonprofit.

8. Kimberly E. Franklin, Miss Dover

OCCUPATION Administrative secretary 

HOBBIES Runway and print modeling, shopping, spending time with nieces, god-kids and mentees. 

What’s your platform and how will you create awareness?

My platform is called “Pretty Little Role Models.” It’s a mentoring program dedicated to serve young ladies, ranging from adolescents to young adults, that I’d like to share in my community and surrounding areas in hopes to spread abroad. My vision is to be of service and help young girls, and young ladies who suffer from low self-esteem and loneliness. I wish to create an atmosphere of trust and instill a sense of belonging where they can come for emotional support, encouragement, guidance and motivation.

Through my “Pretty Little Role Models” mentoring program, the idea is to build confidence and promote love for oneself through mentoring and sisterhood with freedom to express. The importance of it rests on the challenges I faced as a child through the early stages of adulthood. There was a sense of loneliness and a lack of self-worth.

I experienced a very cold and dark phase during that time period. I didn’t know my purpose. … I simply did not know who I was. I wish to shed light and happiness on knowing your purpose and simply loving who you are. The unveiling of God’s plan and love for me was the epitome of change on my journey. I wish to be that voice of hope.