Marlisa K. Small Takes the Crown in the Ms. Senior South Carolina Pageant

October 2019
Written By: 
Harold Rohrback
Photographs by: 
Randall Hill

Marlisa K. Small, known for both her heart and her beauty, wins Ms. Senior South Carolina

Marlisa K. Small has given away thousands of wigs to those who are battling cancer through her Wigs for Cancer non-profit.

Let’s start with the obvious. Marlisa K. Small is a tall, beautiful woman with sparkling eyes and a smile that lights up the room. What is not so obvious, however, is the size of the heart and depth of determination to help others that lie within. A tireless worker, she juggles being a wife to husband David, business owner, grandmother to 13, prior Little River Rotary President, and many, many fundraisers and benefits with a warm smile and gentle spirit. So it is not a big surprise that when she was approached by S.C. State Administrator Connie Ross-Karl to be a contestant in the Ms. Senior South Carolina Beauty Pageant she said yes, even though she had no prior experience in pageants.

The senior beauty pageants are designed to give women 60 years of age and older an opportunity to display their inner beauty, talents and elegance as an encouragement to others. It honors the achievements of senior women and motivates and encourages them to utilize their full potential to share a positive outlook on life with others. After winning the South Carolina pageant and receiving a letter of encouragement from Governor McMaster, it was off to the national pageant in Atlantic City, New Jersey, on October 16–18, 2018.

The first segment is where the contestants are asked their “Philosophy of Life” and what they do to promote it. Small chose to speak on changing lives through cancer wigs. She has given away thousands of free, new wigs to women, men and children who are battling cancer through her Wigs for Cancer non-profit. A cancer survivor herself, Small puts her 40 years of experience in the beauty field to work at her Wig Studio and Day Spa in Little River to make the survivors look like they did before cancer treatment. For the gown competition, she wore a champagne-colored evening gown with a flowing train and in the talent portion she performed a touching rendition of Martina McBride’s “Love You Through It,” for which she received a standing ovation with more than a few tears in the audience. Small finished in the top 10 of the national competition.

The list of benefits and fundraisers hosted by Small is endless, but for more information go to