Zara Johnson crowned Mrs. Illinois 2011

A monarch butterfly, contestant #13, entered the room and left out as the winner of the Mrs. Illinois 2011 beauty pageant.

A monarch butterfly, contestant #13, entered the room and left out as the winner of the Mrs. Illinois 2011 beauty pageant.

Zara Johnson of suburban Plainfield beat out seven other wives Friday for the coveted title, and also took home the trophy for best costume.

Johnson, 58 –– clad in an all black leotard with wings attached to her back and thigh-high black patent stiletto boots –– glided on stage at the Bolingbrook Performing Arts Auditorium at the start of the pageant, representing the monarch butterfly.

“This is amazing. I got into this not thinking I’d win. It’s my first pageant and I did it just for fun, but the more I got into it I was bit by the pageant bug. I wanted to win. I’m just truly grateful,” Johnson, a Jonesboro, Louisiana native told the Defender in the midst of taking photos and signing autographs.

Johnson’s poise, grace and age sealed the deal. She was the oldest of the eight contestants, a judge said.

“When she came on stage, she just blew us away. She carried herself well…the way she spoke…she just brought life into everything she did. Her age also played a high factor; it propelled her way up. She was the total package,” said Jan Cregier, one of the judges.

Johnson’s husband Henry “Hank” Johnson Jr., was dubbed “Mr. Illinois” after he did a modeling stint on stage while the judges tallied up the votes. His performance had the crowd on its feet.

“Oh my God. This is crazy. Wow,” Hank Johnson said after his wife was announced the winner.

She was awarded over $15,000 in prizes and will compete in the Mrs. America pageant in the Spring.

Copyright 2011 Chicago Defender

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