I first met Teryl-lynn Foxx in 1992 on a trip to new Orleans, and we became fast and enduring friends. With her 2106 reign as Miss Continental Elite coming to a close I caught up with her for a an interview. Teryl-Lynn Foxx entered the pageant circuit in her 20’s, shortly after she transitioned and began working the club scene as an entertainer. Despite going back to school and becoming valedictorian of her class, she couldn’t secure a job in her field as a registered nurse, being passed over by less qualified candidates.
Teryl-Lynn Foxx entered the pageant circuit in her 20’s, shortly after she transitioned and began working the club scene as an entertainer. Despite going back to school and becoming valedictorian of her class, she couldn’t secure a job in her field as a registered nurse, being passed over by less qualified candidates.
“Sure,” she says, “it was frustrating. I thought with my transition I could have a normal girl's life.”
From that first defeat however, she never quite. She jumped into the entertainment world head first as a regular at the legendary OZ nightclub in the French Quarter of her hometown of New Orleans. Simultaneously she found her outlet as a pageant contestant, winning many pageant titles. This opened new doors for her to headline shows all across the country, providing her with extensive travel opportunities. Some of her titles included Miss Gay Louisiana USA, Miss Tennessee USA, Miss Clique magazine, Miss Essence, and others.
With this heightened exposure she became more active at home in the transgender community, serving as liaison to the Governor’s office on transgender and gay issues, like HIV awareness and prevention. She also became very involved in the Mardi Gras festival each year, riding the lead float one year as the parade's Grand marshall.
Yet her life wasn't solely in the gay community that she frequented, and she landed a day job at and events management company. This in turn gave her the opportunity to become a runway model for Saks 5th ave. that lasted for several years.
By the early 2000’s she retired from the club and pageant circuit, and after Hurricane Katrina, which destroyed her beloved city, she was content living a low-key lifestyle, singing in her church choir and settling into a regular life.
Fast-forward ten years and the pageant life began to itch at the back of her brain. Then in 2016 she reemerged in the Continental pageant circuit for one more go around -- to complete in the Miss Continental Elite, for girls over 40. “When I entered I thought it was for girls over 50”, she says, “so when I learned it was for 40 and over, it was a jolt: the competition would be more fierce than I expected as I'd be competing with girls over ten years my junior. But I was undeterred, and right then decided I was going to win it!”
And she did.
We chatted about the pageant, the preparation, and the overall experience. Here are excerpts from that interview.
Brianna: You're a veteran pageant competitor, what was the motivation after leaving the circuit 10 years prior to compete again?
Teryl-Lynn: I’m not entirely sure what the underlying motivation was, I just knew this was something I wanted to do, and committed myself to the process.
Was the Miss Continental the first circuit you had ever competed in?Actually yes, it was. And I didn’t win. 20 years ago I got to top 12 after two years, but never top 5, and I stopped. I guess it wasn't my time. So I shifted to the Miss US of A circuit, and that is when I began to win titles.
How did you prepare differently this year? I no longer had my youth, so I had to work very hard, for almost a year before i entered, and I hired a trainer to help me prepare.
Being a veteran of the pageant circuit, what advice would you give those just starting a pageant career? I guess the one thing I learned early on was to stay true to who i am, and not let too many people get in my head. There will be many people telling what you should or shouldn’t do, and if you don’t have your own identity you can get pulled in many different directions, which can erode your focus.
Did your prepare any differently, was there new challenges this time?
yes, as I mentioned I had trained for over a year for this. And the talent part for this competition I couln't use props as we had been allowed to do in other competitions. you coud only use a hand-held propr, like a fan or something, so that was differnt. I performed a revamped Billy Holiday that I had done many times in the past and tried to make it new and compelling.
Was there a moment during this year's pageant where you thought "I could, or I'm going to win this!" I thought I could win it. I wanted to win it, with all my being. Throughout my pageant career, I often find little tokens, signs of good luck. Like finding a penny, or a nickel. This year, before going onstage one night I reached down and found a quarter, and I thought “this is it, I’ve got this, i’m going to win it.”
Certainly I'd imagine the crowning has to be the best moment of the pageant, but after that, what was the best memory for you from this year's pageant? The moments that made the journey special were all the great people I met, the camaraderie with the other contestants. There was a shared struggle as we competed, but I think win or lose we all shared in the joy of those who won.
What was the first thought in head reign our head when you were named? Every fiber of my being wanted to win this, and I felt i was going to. Can't recall my first thought, or the first feeling. It was numing; I felt that I was going to win, so when they called my name I had the coin in my hand, and all I recall was that I looked up and thanked God whose help I prayed for.
How does Miss Continental Elite rank in you heart with other crowns you've won throughout your career? It was the best. It was returning to where it all began for me. It was the pagent that I worked hardest to achieve, and I am so proud of that win.
As your reign winds down, with the new nationals coming up in April, what's your first thought about the year that has passed? I didn't know what the responsibiltis and obligations would be. I had to attend every preliminary throughout the country all year long. I always had to look the part of the reigning queen, even when I didn't feel like it. I was there to be the face of the pagenat and guide and motivate the other contestants, and enjoyed doing that.
You've had a long and accomplished pageant career, what is the most valuable lesson you've learned? I've learned that I can achieve if I believe, and carry the weight of the responsibility. I gained administrative skills and look forward to helping others achieve their goals.
Is there more pageantry on your horizon? There is probably one more in my future, returning where I got my start at Miss US of A, but this time in their Classic devision, for girls over 40.
Thank you fr taking the time to speak with me, and as always it was a pleasure. Thank you Brinana for your ongoing support to me and the community at large.
Terly-Lynn Fox transitioned as a young person of 22, not really knowing where the journey would take her. She experienced her families acceptance, an exciting career traveling the country, gracing the covers of magazines, walking the runway, and being crowned Queen on many occations. Life doesn't seem to get any better than living one's own adventure. Let Teryl-Lynn's story be an encouragement for those unsure of their next step -- you don't have to the know the destination to begin down the road; one step at a time.
Until next time, be safe, be proud, and always think pretty thoughts!