PIQUA — For Piqua resident Megan Booher, entering the Ohio North America beauty pageant was not something she had planned for long, but after a new friendship was tragically cut short, she was inspired to compete for the Miss Buckeye State title.
Booher, 24, is an aesthetician at A Wild Hair Salon & Day Spa in Piqua. In January of this year, she was visited by two new clients, Emily Lear and her mother, Karen Picker, both of whom wanted their eyelashes done before going on a family cruise.
Just weeks later, after returning from the vacation, Lear was in a crash on state Route 571, near Gettysburg-Pitsburg Road in Darke County, in which her car struck the back of a disabled semi truck.
Nineteen-year-old Lear, of Piqua, and formerly of Sidney, was taken by Careflight from the scene to Miami Valley Hospital where she succumbed to her injuries four days later, on Feb. 16.
According to Picker, her daughter had long been participating in pageants, winning her first crown at just age 2. In 2018, Lear competed in the Ohio North America beauty pageant, winning the Miss Buckeye State 2019 title.
Booher said she’s also had an interest in beauty pageants since she was young.
“I always loved watching the Miss America pageants,” she said. “I did the Pumpkin Show in high school, but this was my first state pageant.”
Booher had applied for entry into the Ohio North America beauty pageant after Lear’s untimely death. She had also learned that the Miss Buckeye State title would be given in conjunction with a new decoration: The Emily Lear Memorial Award.
“Through the visits I had with Emily at the salon, she told me how she won Miss Buckeye State, so when I found out that the pageant was coming up, I decided to go ahead and interview for it,” Booher said. “I also knew the pageant director was looking for some people who knew Emily to enter the pageant in memory of her, so I thought, ‘We’ll see how this goes.’”
Not only was Booher interested in entering the pageant as a way to honor Lear, she was also motivated by Picker.
“I had encouraged Megan to do it,” Picker said. “She was so quiet, and I thought that it would be good for her to do something like that, and she’s very pretty, so I said, ‘Emily would be right here telling you to do it!’”
Picker said it was in her daughter’s nature to be kind, supportive, and uplifting to those around her.
“(Emily) would often help girls that didn’t have confidence,” Picker said. “Even before pageants, she would dress them up for homecoming, let them wear her clothes and dresses, make them look and feel pretty, and then at the end, she’d tell them they could keep the clothes. She did that all the time.”
After applying and interviewing for a spot, Booher was accepted to compete in the Ohio North America beauty pageant on Aug. 11, where she was crowned Miss Buckeye State and given the honorary Emily Lear Memorial Award.
Booher also won the “Beauty with a Purpose” award for the proposal of her idea to start a non-profit agency that focuses on funding cosmetic services for car crash victims or those with medical-related cosmetic issues.
“When I won, it was almost kind of euphoric; it was like I couldn’t hear and I started crying,” Booher said. “I had worked hard leading up to it and with it being my first state pageant I didn’t really think that I would get far, so it was very surreal — basically a dream come true.”
Picker also attended the pageant and was the one who placed the crown on Booher’s head. Since then, and with continued visits at eyelash appointments, Picker said the two have become close.
“My relationship with Megan has definitely grown. When someone spends two and a half to three hours putting lashes on you, you get to know them through conversation,” Picker said. “We’ve become very close, and I know this sounds weird, but I feel like a part of Emily is with her; she’s blonde, she’s outgoing, she’s energetic, and she has a compassion for animals that Emily had too.”
Booher said she feels that her meeting Lear and Picker was “meant to be.”
“The first time we met, we had an instant connection with each other, and though our relationship was short-lived, she’s been by my side this entire time,” Booher said of Lear. “There’s no doubt God knew what he was doing when he brought (her) into my life.
“Everything happens for a reason, so I feel like the accident was going to happen regardless, and me coming into the lives of Emily’s family and them coming into mine was kind of like an emotional crutch for everyone,” Booher continued. “It’s almost unexplainable and something most people wouldn’t believe.”
Booher will compete for the title of Miss North America at the national Miss North America pageant, which takes place in Florida, in June 2020.
Her work as Miss Buckeye State for the next year will include various charity ventures, including a toy drive and visit to Dayton Children’s Hospital on Nov. 18.