REDLANDS – The seven member Zombie Kill Squad was on high alert Sunday, as the undead were on parade at the second annual Zombie Beauty Pageant held at the Fox Theatre in downtown Redlands.
Twelve contestants hobbled their way to the stage to participate in three pageant stages – talent, swimsuit and evening wear – to determine the winner by audience vote.
Sponsored by Forbidden Panel, the event was nearly sold-out as hundreds watched Jasmine Garcia, aka “Betty Bites” take home the top prize and title of “Miss IE Zombie.”
Last year’s pageant winner, Brianna Maynard of Redlands, was on hand to pass the crown to Garcia.
“I’m really excited because I get to watch everything go down, whereas last year it was kind of rush, rush, rush, go, go, go perform,” Maynard said prior to crowing the new winner. “It’s always fun to scare the crap out of people and then pass on the crown.”
For AJ Herrera, founder and editor-in-chief of Forbidden Panel, the idea to hold a Zombie pageant was just to entertain fans of the genre and his imagination.
He never thought it would grow from six contestants to 12 in its second year.
In addition, organizers were also able to add a junior division which netted three contestants.
“We’re pretty amazed. We didn’t think we would do well enough in the first one to warrant a second one. But apparently, I’m wrong because we had a full house,” Herrera said.
The fascination with zombies and other creatures that go bump in the night has been growing over the past several years.
Herrera said he believes the reason behind the fad is because it is a way for people to embrace their fears.
“Instead of just being afraid and scared of them, they decide to embrace them and that way they control their fear toward them,” he said, adding that he plans to hold another pageant next year. “It’s always been a dream of mine to put out comic books and to host events like this. So seeing it grow and grow as the way that it has been, it makes me happy – not just for myself, but for everyone around me.”
Mary Woods, 40, of Redlands and her daughter Aaliyah, 10, participated in the inaugural pageant and returned as participants this year because the event was a lot of fun.
“And I’m sure I’ll do the third one as well,” said Woods, aka Bloody Mary. “I love zombies and I love Halloween, it’s my favorite day of the year.”
Last year, the mother-daughter duo performed a magic trick during the talent portion of the contest.
This year, the duo decided to try their hand at a little tight rope walking action.
Planning what the two were going to do and what they were going to wear took time, Woods said. But it was all worth it in the end, she said.
“We’ve been here since noon getting ready,” she said. “It’s an all-day thing-, but it’s a lot of fun.”
Jacqueline Chavez, 28, of San Bernardino, heard about the contest from a Facebook link posted to her wall by her cousin.
She said she has been promoting it via the social media site since she entered her name in the competition.
Chavez, a longtime pin-up pageant contestant, said the event was completely different from anything she has ever done.
“Usually at the pin-up pageants, it’s not a full pageant. But this right here, you actually have to do a lot more. It’s just, oh dear,” she said.
Herrera noted that Sunday’s event was not one-person made effort, but was made possible many local hair dressers and make-up artists who donated their time to work on contestants prior to taking the stage, and retailers.
“I began this journey by myself and I never wanted to end it by myself. I wanted to be able to showcase the people that live in the Inland Empire and their talents and what-not, including not only the people who draw with Forbidden Panel, but the make-up artists and contestants that are here tonight,” he said.