This article originally appeared in August-September ’17 issue of Owensboro Living Magazine.

Owensboro made history at the July Miss Daviess County Pageant when El’Agance Shemwell won, marking the first time the crown was worn by an African American.

And while this is a momentous step forward for Owensboro, El’Agance is just excited to represent the county that she loves.

“For me, I never thought of myself as the black contestant,” El’Agance said. “I am just El’Agance, a self-confident, self-driven young lady who wants to make a difference in our community. I am, however, extremely proud of being the first black Miss Daviess County. I feel now more young African American ladies won’t feel they don’t stand a chance and will come and join our sisterhood.”

This year marked El’Agance’s fifth time competing in the Daviess County Lions Club Pageant in both the Miss Teen Daviess County and Miss Daviess County categories. And in those five years, El’Agance placed in the top, even second runner up two years in a row. Looking back, she admits she would hear people saying that she would never win because of her skin color.

“But I never listened to them,” El’Agance said. “Miss Daviess County is about getting up on that stage and being confident in who you are.”

Now, after five years, El’Agance says “It feels amazing, like a dream come true. I am a very determined and driven young lady, so once I put my mind to something, I do not give up. My motto is ‘failure is not an option.’”

Having been in the pageant world since the age of 2, El’Agance lives up to her name on the stage.

“Growing up in the pageant world has helped me to become the leader I am today. I learned self-confidence, public speaking and how to think on my toes. I have created so many friendships over the years as well,” El’Agance said. “I can honestly say there was nothing I disliked. In pageants, sometimes you win and sometimes you lose. It comes with the territory. When I won, I always remained grounded and humble, when I lost I learned from my mistakes and tried harder.”

El’Agance won Miss Black Expo in 2013. “A lot of people in our community think the Black Expo is only for African Americans,” El’Agance said. “It is actually open to all races. The pageant is very similar to Miss Daviess County. They both have interview, swimwear and evening gown competitions. They also both award scholarships.”

An Owensboro High School graduate, El’Agance was an active Red Devil in student government, the cheerleading team and choir. Now entering her sophomore year at Western Kentucky University, El’Agance is studying broadcast journalism and taking courses in criminology with the dream of someday being a crime reporter. She is currently interning with PBS in Bowling Green, and hopes to land an internship with Fox 7.

The future only looks bright for our new Miss Daviess County. As a part of her reign, El’Agance will go into local schools to talk about her platform, seatbelt safety awareness, as well as participate in a variety of community events, and appear at Girls Inc., the Boys and Girls Club, the H.L. Neblett Center and anywhere else she may be needed. “I am excited about being looked upon as a role model to others, and will continue to set a good example for our youth.”