By Madiha Yameen, Karachi
Chapter One: Who You Are (1974)
I still remember when my entire life changed… “And the Teen Queen USA 1974 is…. Heaven Leigh Rudolph!” There were applause, big grins and dark grimaces, groans and yelps of happiness and shock. Yes, when I was awarded with the white gold crown, holding me the Teen Queen of 1974, there were mixed reactions, and me; I was over the moon! I walked down the ramp with my escort Demi and the host Angela Paulson, smiling ear to ear, ebullience lightening me up like starlight, receiving “Congratulation Heaven”, “You made it!”, “I Love you”, appreciative nods and knowing smiles. The only thought, which was on my mind that moment was of my late parents, Leisel-Leigh Louisé Vincent and Clyde Gabriel Rudolph. I wished with all my heart and soul that they were here to see their little princess on her highest moment. My name is Heaven-Leigh Rudolph. I’m from Kansas with German and French ancestry with Scottish and Welsh roots. I’m 17 and have made quite a name in the modelling field. I lost my father in infancy and mother followed him in my pre-teens.
When I was 13, a lady approached me and my giggling friends. Asked me to smile this way and that, lower my eyes, then she asked me if she can photograph me “Aw… Sure” I replied. It was all a game to me. Then she kind of surprised me by asking “Would you like to do modelling?” It was still a joke but, this serous turn in conversation got me! “Sure, eh… why not?” I replied. She noted my name, number, and address. On my name she commented “Well well, Heaven you got a grand name and a grand future ahead of you!” She left. Her name was Camille Underwood and she was my mentor to be. That’s where it all started. I modelled for kids brands at first then soon it was the big names. Looking back, its all, unfortunately, a blur of embellished clothes of posh brands and photo shoots, but a bliss one at that. I met Rebekah, Irina, and Charlotte, all struggling to reach the top. But for me, it was a sort of ‘being there but not really’ thing. I was overwhelmed with my success and it felt like it was happening to somebody else and I’m in the background, watching. I didn’t let it get to me, I remained who I were and took it as a means of providing three meals a day, a roof over my head and a warm bed. The first week at the modelling agency is as vivid as the day of Mother’s death. I made a fool of myself, being a novice at the game back then did blunders after one. The assistant measured me from alpha to omega and shot “Details” to the PC guy, who entered the information in their database.
“Skin, Peachy Pale” which was only sheet-pale an hour ago. “Hairs, Platinum Blonde” which were just a lousy light blond. “Eyes, Sapphire Blue”. Height went 5’10’’ etc etc. She measured everything from the length of my hairs to my waist. The details were too much to remember, even for me. I know I’m blabbering but I have to tell you about my appearance before I drop the final bomb. So, lets run back to the pageant. When I reached the judges table after the long walk, I was told “the perks of being TQ-USA 1974”. Gloria Finn stated them in bullets points and I got the impression she has spoken them many times before. “You’ll be judging for the next TQ-USA girls and there’ll be many”, ”you’ll tour the US to meet the society”, “you’ll run the beauty campaigns for the…” God I was overwhelmed! Gloria continued “And… the sweetest part, you’ll tell your story from the first shoot to this stage in…” she glanced at the long judges table, giving knowing smiles to everyone who returned, I was holding my breathe, here we go again “in a book of your own!”. There was a big round of applause on it and I was smiling widely back at Gloria who has that accomplished amused look on her. I was loaded with a silver pink strap saying “Teen Queen USA 1974”, another crown, a big one, replacing the previous, and a larger than life cheque.
Gloria wasn’t finished, but I was famished! “Turn around Heaven and take a peek at your presents you’ll take home!” I turned about waiting for a sight to drop me dead. And I wasn’t disappointed! The screen showed a black limo stuffed to the brim, yes! Stuffed with everything a girl can dream of! Dresses, shoes, stilettos, coats, jumpers, cardigan, handbags, clutches, accessories, make up in every colour! Dang! Was I dreaming? No, it’s going to have a bad, no worse, ending! I could have drop cold right there on the stage, but I was too happy for that. Happy? That’s an understatement. There were gasps and squeals! Oh, I was being envied! “What do you think?” Gloria smiled as if she was the one responsible for it! I had stars in my eyes and I bet on Lincoln’s grave that every single person present could see light bursting from within me! “Not so shabby” I shot back! A Week Later: Janey Childs, on the Live With Janey, gleaming and all glitzed-up, turned to me “So, Heaven Leigh Rudolph, tell the world who you are in three words…” It was the last question and show had only 5 minutes to end. I gazed at the audience, smiling that innocent-maiden smile. “I’m a Christian, a persistent young lady, and black (Negro)”. Can’t describe the stunned faces as I left…To Be Continued…