When the Lawndale City Council welcomed 24-year-old Valencia Bilyeu as the new Miss Lawndale on Thursday at City Hall, she received applause and a huge bouquet of long-stemmed red roses.
Her glow was dimmed a little later in the meeting, however, when council critic Nancy J. Marthens pronounced the annual contest a "Rent-a-Queen" pageant because the honoree doesn't even live in Lawndale.
"If the Chamber of Commerce and the City Council are married to the idea of a Rent-a-Queen representing Lawndale to the outside world, could (the city) hold a Miss Lawndale contest exclusively for Lawndale residents?" she asked the council, adding it appeared "that you feel the young women of Lawndale are not attractive, talented or poised enough to compete" for the Miss California and Miss America contests.
Bilyeu, a tall blonde who lives in Irvine, said she was upset and angry at Marthens' comments.
"She doesn't understand the underlying principle of the Miss America program, which is education," said Bilyeu, a graduate of Boise State University who plans to use her $1,500 Miss Lawndale scholarship to attend graduate school. She holds a full-time sales and public relations job at a Huntington Beach medical clinic.
"The important thing for the city is to have a representative who will be a good role model for children and young adults, " said Bilyeu, who is the daughter of Idaho State Sen. Charles Bilyeu. "It doesn't matter whether she comes from Lawndale or the surrounding community."