Between costume changes and a few deep breaths backstage, the elegant, all-60-or-older contestants shrugged off their nerves and put on a show that should not be missed.
Ms. Senior Arizona will celebrate its 25th year on March 22. The competitors hail from a wide variety of backgrounds, but what they have in common, Opperman said in an interview, is a desire to "find awesome ways of having fun in their retirement."
Don't assume the women aren't here to win, though. The pageant victor travels to Atlantic City, N.J., where she will compete in the Ms. Senior America Pageant. For a shot at the crown, competitors give it their all in categories including philosophy of life, evening gown, and talent.
"Lee Lotze, who went on to win the pageant, really wowed everyone with her talent performance," Opperman said. "It involved a fairly seductive and difficult dance that included a chair as a prop, and the splits."
Opperman's slideshow for the newspaper didn't dwell on the glitz and glamor of the center stage, though.
Instead, he sought to pin down those quieter, heart-pounding moments backstage.
"I had a feeling there would be a lot of interesting moments," Opperman said. "I remember being particularly struck by the way Pat Thielen-Warren, the previous year's winner, longingly looked at her crown in the moments before she crowned (the 2013) winner."
Opperman hopes to make it back to this year's pageant. He's considering a portrait series of the contestants, capturing each woman in the moments before she takes the stage.
Editor's note: This article has been revised for clarity since it was first published.