At Camille’s of Wilmington, we’ve gotten to know many pageant contestants and their family members over the years but none have affected us quite like Sydney Davis and her mother, Patti.
If you saw Sydney Davis on stage at the Miss Clemson University Pageant on January 28, 2017, you’d never know by her radiance and grace, exactly how many circumstances she had to overcome to get there.
The team at Camille’s feels very fortunate to be a part of Sydney’s pageant journey where she was able to dance the Cha Cha, receive the “People’s Choice Award,” and get invited on stage to take a bow with the pageant’s winner, Brooklyn Faye Garrett.
We wanted to tell Sydney’s courageous story and how Camille’s was able to play a part in making a very special night happen for Sydney.
The following is based on an interview with Sydney’s mother, Patti Davis.
Who is Sydney Davis?
Sydney is a twenty-two year Sophomore at ClemsonLIFE (Learning Is For Everyone), a program for students with intellectual disabilities who desire a postsecondary experience on a college campus. Sydney has Down Syndrome but that has not stopped her from following her many goals and dreams.
How long has Sydney been competing in pageants?
Patti Davis: Sydney did not have any history with pageants before the Miss Clemson pageant. However, she did have stage experience from 8 years of ballet lessons and also cheering on a competition team for 12 years.
The Miss Clemson Pageant came to ClemsonLIFE to ask if Sydney would like to compete. This was partly do to the fact that Sydney’s teacher, Ms. Kim, recommended her. Sydney is only the second student with Down Syndrome to ever compete in the pageant. Her former roommate, Katie Meriam, competed the year before.
Sydney called me in late November to tell me she would be competing in the pageant the end of January. It was a huge surprise since neither of us had experience with pageants. But I knew it was something we had to do.
When did Sydney begin preparing for the pageant?
Patti Davis: We began planning right away and decided her talent would be ballroom dancing (the Cha Cha) since she loves to dance and “Dancing with the Stars.” We knew we would need a gown for her dance and started to shop for gown patterns over Thanksgiving.
While at Joanne’s Fabrics shopping for patterns, someone at the fabric store overheard me saying what I was looking for someone to make a pageant costume. This young lady told us her Aunt, Lynn Balderson (who we would later learn is a consultant at Camille’s), makes costumes and may be able to help so I left her with my contact information.
We kept looking for gowns in Raleigh and Charlotte that would not have to be sewn from scratch but we could not find one that really flattered Sydney.
Over Christmas we did end up buying a gown from another store and that ended up being a huge mistake. This is because we knew we were running out of time to find a dress and get it altered. It became apparent as the date grew closer to the pageant that Sydney did not feel comfortable in this dress and I decided about a week before that we had to find her another dress.
Wait, you needed a pageant dress a week before the pageant!?
Patti Davis: That’s right. I knew this may be the only time she may ever do anything like this and I wanted her to look and feel the best she possibly could. I spent hours looking for dresses online and came across Camille’s of Wilmington in my search.
Even though the staff at Camille’s were getting ready for a Fashion Show, they got back to me to see if they could help with my impossible endeavor. That’s when Lynn’s niece saw a news story on Sydney and realized this dress was for the same girl from Joanne’s Fabrics a couple months before. It was meant to be! Needless to say, they still really wanted to help.
How did you get Sydney a dress in time?
We obviously didn’t have time to sew a dress from a pattern, so I gave Camille’s her size and measurements and Lynn sent us pictures of dresses that had just come in stock. Then, the most shocking and amazing thing happened – Lynn got permission from the owners of Camille’s to drive 4 of the dresses to us from Wilmington to Clemson so that Sydney could try them on and choose one.
Sydney knew immediately which dress of the 4 she wanted and Lynn took responsibility for altering it before the pageant would take place just a few days later.
Lynn stayed with me at my hotel in Clemson the week before the pageant and helped with, well, everything. She was truly my right hand those days leading up to the pageant. The day of, she was there to support Sydney and even helped tie her into the gown’s corset back.
Was getting her dress finished last minute the most stressful part about the pageant?
Patti Davis: If only! Unforeseen circumstances forced us to change Sydney’s dance partner the week before the pageant as well. Sydney’s new partner, Elliot, and her put in a ton of practice time the week leading up to the pageant. The two ended up really bonding, so the switch in partners worked out much better as well.
Is there anything you’d like to say to Lynn or the ladies at Camille’s
Patti Davis: Thank you so much! Your generosity of time and effort was truly appreciated. Dress shops don’t do things like this. It was just amazing. They went above and beyond what was ever expected. Everyone at the pageant went crazy over that dress! Even the contestants were raving to Sydney about it.
After the pageant was over, I sent flowers to Camille’s and Lynn as a small token of our gratitude.
What do you think was Sydney’s favorite thing about pageant prep?
Patti Davis: Although she did love her dress, I’d have to say her favorite part was dancing with Elliott.
What was Sydney’s favorite thing that happened at the Clemson pageant?
Patti Davis: Going on stage with the original “People’s Choice” winner, Brooklyn and bowing to the audience. I believe Brooklyn felt like “People’s Choice” really did belong to Sydney and Sydney feels as though she did win that.
Are there any more pageants in Sydney’s future?
Patti Davis:I have no idea if Sydney will do any more pageants. She’s busy. We talked about possibly doing another one and Brooklyn offered to work with her doing her hair and makeup so it could be in here future.
And if she does…I know we will definitely be calling Camille’s!