A Dixie State University tradition since 1922 is the D-Queen pageant for women who embody the spirit of Dixie.
The pageant includes an interview, talent, written essay, evening wear, onstage questions, academic achievement, service, and involvement. Here is a list of a few of the past D-Queens explaining what winning the title has meant and what they have accomplished since.
1963 – Lana Larkin
In 1963, before it was DSU, Dixie Junior College (DJC) had no pageant involved in crowning the D-Queen. Instead the faculty would nominate a number of women they believed were good representatives of the Dixie spirit. Then the student body would cast the final vote in crowning the queen.
Larkin graduated from DJC with an associate degree. She continued her schooling at Brigham Young University and received a bachelor’s degree in homemaking education. In 1966, Larkin and her husband lived in Mexico for a year to further her husband’s studies. Larkin taught on and off briefly at various schools after graduating but mainly focused on raising her children.
During her time as D-Queen, Larkin said she, “Felt… a responsibility to remember that it wasn’t about me. I was standing as a representative of what the ‘D’ spirit was.”
Larkin most remembers her desire to best represent and support the students during the few months she was D-Queen before graduating. She carried this desire into the rest of her life.
“Whenever we have an opportunity to stand as a representative of something or some group… really it’s to represent what you are there to represent and not make it a personal thing,” Larkin said.
2008 – Jennifer Shakespeare
Shakespeare graduated from Dixie State College of Utah completing her associate degree. She continued her education at Southern Utah University and received her bachelor’s degree in communications. Shakespeare worked in marketing and sales in assisted memory care for about eight years. Last year she transitioned to work for Deseret Digital Media and does sales for them on Utah.com.
While at DSC, Shakespeare was on student government and wanted to be involved in D-Queen.
Shakespeare said: “I knew homecoming was just way too fancy for me, and there was no way I was getting in a swimsuit. A group of friends and I wanted to do it and I loved Dixie and the whole culture of it just seemed like a fun experience.”
Shakespeare wanted to showcase her school spirit through her talents. During the talent portion she played a melody of the school song and “Just for Now” on the piano while a slideshow of photos from past years at DSC played in the background.
Shakespeare loved how the pageant incorporated different strengths with portions focused on verbal communication, written communication, stage performance and more. While she loved the experience, she remembers not expecting to be crowned D-Queen.
“I was actually looking at a different girl… I was like, ‘Oh yeah it’s for sure going to be her’ and then they called my name and I was like, ‘what?,'” Shakespeare said.
Shakespeare said the experience taught her to always go for things in life that you wonder about. “It was everything I hoped it could be and more… I hope I can always remember that courage.”
2009 – Chelsea Tavana
Tavana attended DSC from 2007 to 2010. She received her associate degree and following her graduation, she served a full-time mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in San Fernando, California. She graduated from BYU in 2015 with a bachelor’s degree in public health with an emphasis on international development. This led her to organize and attend humanitarian trips in Kenya, Malawi, Mexico and Thailand.
Tavana participated in the pageant because her mother was a pageant winner, judge and contestant in many pageants. She also grew up watching the Miss America pageant each year. Tavana loved her time at DSC and was heavily involved with being a member of student government and an ambassador. For the talent portion of the pageant, Tavana performed a hula to show her love for her Hawaiian heritage.
Tavana worked as a community engagement specialist at United Way in Provo and started her own photography business. She eventually married and had one daughter. However, Tavana struggled with heart complications throughout her life and on March 4, 2019 she unexpectedly passed away in her sleep at 30-years-old.
Tavana’s mother Michelle Gould, said: “The hallmarks of Chelsea’s life were her love of our Savior, Jesus Christ, her love of her family, her love of her friends, and her deep love for serving all people she met. Chelsea was a light to all who knew her and left her legacy of service, a love for all people and an example for all of us and would want us to carry that love and light on to others.”
2012 – Jacee Whatcott
Whatcott graduated from DSU with a bachelor’s degree in biology and a minor in chemistry. She received her personal training certificate and currently runs her own business in Salt Lake City. In September, Whatcott’s dream of having a family is coming true with the birth of her little boy.
Whatcott was an integral member of campus as she was on Student Alumni Association for a couple of years. She put on multiple events for students and alumni to attend. Being part of the SAA, Whatcott wanted to represent the association at the pageant.
“I had never imagined myself doing it before so I didn’t know what to expect… I met some pretty awesome people, and that is what I remember most, they made it enjoyable and worthwhile,” Whatcott said.
This is only a few of the many D-Queens who deserve to be recognized. From the first D-Queen, Roma Esplin, to our newest, Anna Barfuss, we recognize the achievement of being crowned D-Queen and thank them for their service and support.