Donaldsonville royal legacy competes for state crown
It wasn't that long ago that Donna Latino Barbier wore a crown for Donaldsonville.
The former Jr. Miss Donaldsonville nabbed her crown in 1974 when Ascension pageants were a huge deal for young girls in the historic city.
"I entered the pageant because I had gone to watch previous pageants at the Grand Theatre in Donaldsonville - it was quite the event back in the day," Latino Barbier said. "I admired the girls who had competed in the past and decided to give it a try in 1974. I had just turned 16 and it was my first pageant. Much to my surprise they called my name as Jr. Miss Donaldsonville.
It was so exciting and it meant so much to me to represent my city."
At the time, the pageant benefitted DAARC, now known as Donaldsonville Area ARC - an organization that works with mentally handicapped residents. Barbier took well to her mission and later represented Ascension on a larger scale as Ascension Parish Cotton Queen and Miss Congeniality. From there, she represented Donaldsonville and Ascension Parish at the Louisiana Cotton Festival, where she placed 2nd runner-up. She continued to compete in festival pageants and other beauty pageants until age 21, when she was named 1st Runner-up at the Delcambre Shrimp Festival. Later she became a member of the Louisiana Pageant Judges Association, judging pageants throughout the state, and also directed the Miss Donaldsonville/Jr. Miss Donaldsonville pageant until the early 1990's.
But pageantry truly began to run through her veins when she became mother to her queen legacy - Ashley Victoria Barbier.
Barbier took very quickly to pride in her city and easily fell in love with pageantry. As a young queen, she was crowned Little Miss Sunshine and Petite Miss Sunshine. This year she is Miss Sunshine Festival, and as such, she will compete for the title of Miss Louisiana USA on Oct 7 and Oct 8 in Metairie at the Jefferson Performing Arts Center.
"It's always been a title that's been near and dear to my heart," Barbier said. "To be able to represent Donaldsonville's Sunshine Festival on a state level is kind of a dream come true, because it's something that I've always wanted to do."
No stranger to major stages, last year she held the title of Miss LSU and placed in the top 15 nationally. She maintained the platform of starting the conversation for psychological illnesses, which she will uphold as Miss Sunshine.
"This year will be so different to represent my home town, where I was born and raised," Barbier said.
The 23-year-old graduate student, who is studying clinical rehabilitation and counseling at the LSU School of Allied Health Professions, said she is excited to hit the Miss Louisiana USA stage. Her mother couldn't be more proud, and not just about Miss Louisiana, but especially about the Sunshine Festival.
"This is so awesome that she will represent Donaldsonville at the Miss Louisiana USA pageant this year - there is nothing like representing your home town," Latino Barbier said. "I have always tried to support the Sunshine Festival over the years, and [Ashley] remembers making appearances there as Little Miss and Petite Miss Sunshine. So we are both looking forward to this year's festival, especially since they are bringing it back to downtown Donaldsonville."
Barbier said she is excited about being on hand for festival weekend and meeting, greeting and promoting her hometown, as well as upholding her mother's legacy as a Donaldsonville queen.
"[Pageantry] is always something I was brought up around and I kind of got it from my mom," Barbier said. "It's something we can bond over because we are very different in a lot of ways. It is really cool to not only be able to have this hobby with my mom, but also continuing a legacy she started."
Barbier's parents are Donna Latino Barbier of Donaldsonville and Brent Barbier of Plaquemine, and her grandparents are Richard “Dickie” Barbier and Derley Barbier of Bayou Pigeon, and Joseph A. Latino, Sr. of Donaldsonville, and the late Mary Alice Jennings Latino of Donaldsonville.
The Sunshine Festival is now combined with the Avenue Evening Stroll, to be held on the third weekend in November - Nov. 19 and Nov. 20.
Tickets for Miss Louisiana can be ordered by going to the Miss Louisiana USA website through Ticket Force.