Judy Montague won the title of Miss Bladen County in 1964. Since then, she has judged women’s pageants across North Carolina and the USA for 40 years. Now she has a place where she can continue what has proven to be her life’s work.
J. Montague’s opened in Fuquay Varina on June 22, and features many kinds of women’s dresses, shoes and jewelry. However, an aspiring pageant queen can find much more than an evening gown there. Montague said that her back rooms will be used for coaching young women in makeup application, talent performance and interview skills.
J. Montague’s also features an exhibit of its owner’s history with the Miss North Carolina and Miss America pageants. Much of the exhibit focused on Montague’s mother, Eleanor “Big Mama” Andrews, who judged pageants across the country, including Miss America, for more than 30 years.
More than 300 programs from pageants “that either my mother judged or I judged,” according to Montague, lined the walls of the exhibit. Other features included Andrews’ honorary Miss America crown awarded to her in 1976 and a copy of Frank Deford’s book There She Is: The Life and Times of Miss America.
Montague is not alone in her endeavor to help young women prepare for the competition of their lives. Michelle Braxton, will teach classes on interviewing, modeling and other pageant behavior at J. Montague’s.
Braxton was first runner-up for 1991 Miss North Carolina, and won the talent competition of the pageant. She is now an image consultant and owns Michelle’s Pageant and Image Consulting.
Another ally of Montague’s was Connie Ledgett, who mentored pageant contestants and now owns a Wilmington dress shop called Isabella Grape. Montague said that Young brought dresses to the Fuquay store two days after Montague called her to announce she was opening her own pageant store.
Montague, who was formerly marketing director of Shoppes on Main in Fuquay, said she prepared her store for its grand opening within two weeks of acquiring the property, and she is still not done. She said she plans to knock out a wall between two of her back rooms to create a mock stage for pageant contestants to practice walking across. She also said her husband, Joe, plans to build a runway in the front room for women to practice walking in their gowns and shoes. A makeup consultant and alterations specialist are also being arranged.
“A girl will walk in here and walk out with everything she needs to win the pageant,” Montague said.
J. Montague’s is located at 1148 North Main Street, in the Street of Dreams shopping center next to Biscuitville. Its phone number is 919-552-4292.