Two weeks ago, Dottie Thompson was just another face on a poster with six other beautiful women competing for homecoming queen of Cerritos Community College.
Today, the 67-year-old mother of six and grandmother of 11 reigns supreme as queen of the 18,000-student campus.
The Downey woman, who decided to go back to school after more than 30 years as a full-time homemaker, was crowned Oct. 24 during half time at the homecoming football game with Long Beach City College.
"We were losing at half time. After they gave me the crown, the team seemed to come alive," Thompson said. "We won the game. Maybe I gave them the spirit, a lift."
She has apparently given the entire school a boost.
"Students normally don't pay that much attention to a homecoming queen but Dottie inspired the campus," said Janet Byerly, a 40-year-old student from Norwalk.
"Everybody loves Dottie," said Candy Reitenbach, 21, of Norwalk. "She isn't just another pretty face."
"I voted for her because she made the most realistic (campaign) promise. She promised nothing," said Trisha Carney, 18, of Long Beach.
Carney, who sports multicolored hair of violet, red, pink and purple that is shaved at the sides and wears an earring in her nose, said she and Thompson relate to each other despite the age difference.
"She is very supportive of you in class," Carney said.
Thompson, a part-time student who returned to school in August, attends a fundamental acting class with Carney and Reitenbach. Both campaigned for her.
"I asked the football team to vote for Dottie because she is a good person," Reitenbach said. "And most of them said they would. That was unusual because football players usually go for the pretty, young, gorgeous girls."
Jesse Contreras, a 25-year-old, 230-pound linebacker, said he voted for Thompson "because she has a great personality. It took a lot of guts for her to run."
One of the contestants, Tracy McIntyre, 18, said that as she campaigned around campus the week before the game she "just knew that (Thompson) would win." McIntyre said she was not disappointed in not winning, and said she was honored to have been chosen to compete.
Balloting results are supposed to be secret, but a source who did not want to be identified said Thompson received almost half of the nearly 1,000 votes cast for the seven candidates.
Thompson was sponsored by the Beta Phi Gamma/Press Club, which includes journalism students and staff members of the Talon Marks, the school newspaper.
"I talked to the staff and suggested we sponsor Dottie. She is clever. She is funny," said Nancy Ballard, editor of the Talon Marks, who is also in a feature-writing class with Thompson.
Ballard said she thought it would be neat to sponsor a re-entry student, a person who had returned to school after being away for many years. College officials estimate that re-entry students make up between 9% and 10% of the college student body.
"I thought it was some kind of joke when they told me they were sponsoring me," said Thompson, who said she returned to school because she was bored. Her husband, John, is taking a photography class.
Once she realized the students were serious about her becoming homecoming queen, Thompson said, she "got busy campaigning. I said, 'Why not go for it?' Some candidates were giving out cookies and candy. I just smiled a lot."
Her smiles and bubbly personality got her the crown and brought her a measure of recognition. She has been interviewed by several newspapers and appeared on television. A Hollywood game show wants her to audition for a possible appearance.
"Andy Warhol said (in the future) everybody will be famous for 15 minutes. Well, my kids said I've had my 15 seconds."