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Very Special Miss Louisiana reigns supreme

LAPLACE — C’Jea Frank of LaPlace held three sparkling crowns in her arms last week as local officials celebrated the start of her third year reigning as Very Special Miss Louisiana.

While this year’s pageant was cancelled due to the pandemic, the St. John the Baptist Parish community came together to ensure C’Jea would still be crowned in the public eye. C’Jea, who recently turned 12, was also declared a Louisiana Ambassador by Lieutenant Governor Billy Nungesser for her dedication to promoting the state as a Very Special Miss Louisiana queen.

C’Jea’s mother, Brandi Frank, said it was an emotional day that highlighted unity in the community.

“It meant a lot to me and C’Jea because a lot of times parents with special needs kids feel like they are left out. Anytime I contact the sheriff, the council members or the parish president, they are always there to support her, and they always show her respect as a special needs individual,” Frank said. “That’s so humbling because you often feel so isolated as a special needs family, but not here in St. John Parish; we have a lot of support.”

C’Jea wore a 2021 Very Special Miss Louisiana sash over her gray dress during a March 3 St. John Parish Sheriff’s Office Command Staff meeting at the new Lloyd B. Johnson Training Center in LaPlace. Frank said Sheriff Mike Tregre and his wife, Tanyia, went above and beyond to coordinate the recognition event and sponsor C’Jea’s crown and sash.

After being recognized by the sheriff, C’Jea visited Parish President Jaclyn Hotard. C’Jea’s past as a shy child seemed to be a distant memory as she affectionately greeted everyone she saw with hugs at the Parish Government Complex on Airline Highway. A few years with the Very Special Miss Louisiana crown has brought her completely out of her shell.

C’Jea’s personal growth has been astounding. On top of showing the world what special needs children are capable of, she has shown resilience in the face of adversity. There was a point in time when she was in the custody of the state, and now she is a state ambassador.

“That’s how things change and transpire when you keep God first and keep on pushing,” Frank said.

Very Special Miss Louisiana Pageant Director Robin Abrams said C’Jea was among 10 queens in various age categories who got to keep their title for another year due to the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.

She explained that the Louisiana Ambassador proclamation from Lieutenant Governor Nungesser recognizes the amazing work being done by these young ladies in their respective communities.

“They are showing people that, no matter your abilities or disabilities, you can still accomplish anything and be whatever you want to be,” Abrams said. “The lieutenant governor has recognized these girls as being ambassadors because they’ve worked so hard to prove to everyone that they can accomplish anything.”

According to Frank, C’Jea’s 2021 Very Special Miss Louisiana reign will include an anti-bullying reading night. The family has reached out to Superintendent Dr. Lynett Hookfin about hosting an event where special needs children will receive copies of anti-bullying book “Stacey Starface,” written by local author Kirston Pittman.

“We will also talk about things we can do in the parish, even with the pandemic, that are special needs oriented or special needs friendly,” Frank said. “Because St. John Parish is big enough and we have enough special needs individuals here, rather than traveling outside of St. John Parish, I think we need to have our own special needs sports events and Special Olympics team.”
For more information about the Very Special Miss Louisiana Pageant, please visit tarc-hammond.com. The next pageant is scheduled for February 2022 in Hammond.