Story by Van Mitchell, Staff Writer – Photos Shelton’s Photography & Design for SNL

Linda Traw

Crowned Ms. Oklahoma Senior America 2024 at The 16th Annual Pageant.

Ms. Oklahoma Senior America 2023, Karen Brown Tims (left) along side the new Ms. Oklahoma Senior America, Linda Traw of Tulsa.

Linda Traw of Tulsa was crowned April 6 as Ms. Oklahoma Senior America 2024 at the 16th annual pageant at the Mustang Performing Arts Center.
The winner will be sponsored by the Ms. Senior Oklahoma Foundation to compete in the National Ms. Senior America Pageant at the Tropicana Hotel in Atlantic City, New Jersey, Sept. 29-Oct. 4.
“I had no expectations going into the pageant and was really shocked when they called my name,” Traw said. “I’m completely honored to represent the state of Oklahoma for a year, and of course, to compete nationally.”
The pageant is billed as an exciting combination of talent and inner beauty along with the individual fulfillment and elegance.
By giving women 60 years and older an opportunity to display their “inner beauty”, talents, and elegance, the Pageant honors the achievements of senior women and motivates and encourages them to utilize their full potential to share a positive outlook on life with others. Participants represent a cross-section of America.
The Ms Senior America LLC Pageant is judged in two phases: the Preliminary Round and the Finals. In the Preliminary Round, each contestant receives a score, from 1 to 10, in each of the four categories – Interview – Inner Beauty (Philosophy of Life) – Evening Gown and Talent.
Finalists enter the stage of the Final Round with their scores from their Interviews and are judged a second time on their Evening Gown, Philosophy of Life and Talent Presentations.
Traw, a pre-kindergarten teacher in Jenks, said her co-workers and students were excited to see her return to school with her crown and sash.
“I brought my crown and my sash and I took pictures of everybody (students) wearing the crown,” she said. “They thought it was pretty cool to wear a crown. My co-workers are thrilled. They think it’s really amazing.”
Traw became interested in applying for the pageant after watching a friend compete in it last year.
“I went to see my friend, Debbie Hay. She was in it last year, and I was very impressed,” she said. “I thought, “I want to do that. That would be fun.” And that’s what just drew me in.”
As part of her pageant performance, Traw sang “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” from the movie “Wizard of Oz.”
“I’m a goal setter and since I didn’t start singing until my 40s this was new territory to me,” she said. “When I find something I really want to do, I usually grab a hold onto it and go for it.”
Traw said her life prior to her 40s was like riding a roller coaster having overcome childhood trauma and losing her mother to cancer at a young age.
“I’ve been through dreams and tragedies,” she said. “In high school I did nothing. I always thought I could sing. I was too inverted and too afraid of the world to pursue it. I lived kind of trapped. I mean, I worked and got married and we had a son, but I lived in this world of denial that I had baggage.”
Traw said that baggage finally caught up with her in her 40s.
“It just caught up with me and somewhere in my 40s,” she said. “I returned to teaching after getting my certification in Oklahoma.”
Traw is a native Kansan and taught special education in the Sunflower state.
“I went back to teaching and taught special education, I realized it had changed a lot and it was too much, it became overwhelming. I realized I needed help,” she said.
Traw said she received counseling.
“I received counseling for probably about maybe close to a year, and learned that I wasn’t a victim, but I had a story that could be shared to help others,” she said.
Traw then decided to pursue her love of singing and performing.
“I took voice lessons and that gave me the start to go and pursue productions,” she said. “I’ve been in a total of four community productions around the Tulsa area, Sapulpa, Sand Springs, Broken Arrow, and I was at the PAC when I did “A Christmas Carol” in Tulsa. I used to sing with the Tulsa Praise Orchestra, which is a big band, and I’ve traveled to New York City for the Statue of Liberty’s anniversary and to Kentucky for the American Legion.”
Traw later created a singing business which included singing in retirement homes, but had to scuttle those plans due to COVID-19 restrictions.
“When COVID hit, I lost that business, and I went back to teaching, and now I’m a full-time pre-kindergarten teacher at Jenks Public Schools,” she said.
Traw said performing at the pageant pushed her out of her comfort zone.
“It’s definitely been a challenge,” she said. “It’s taught me a new skill that I didn’t have before. You can’t just get up on the pageant stage and just be there. You have to prepare. There are nerves that go into it. I think everybody was nervous, and there was excitement, of course.”
Traw said faith plays an important role in her life.
“My faith is huge in my life. I couldn’t be who I was, I can’t be who I am, I can’t do what I do without Jesus. It’s impossible. I totally give Him the praise because He’s the one who set me free,” she said.
Traw said this summer she will be more active in promoting the Ms. Oklahoma Senior America pageant.
“My goal is to make more women aware of it that are mature like me, so there’ll be more interest in the program and maybe more new people to participate in the spring,” she said. “I really want to give light to such a worthy organization. I would love to sing at retirement homes again. I thoroughly missed it, so that would be something I’ll probably be pursuing. My goal is to first serve my community, and then if I’m able to find some places where I can sing and entertain.”