Even when she’s just walking down the hall, Meghan Hodges strides with runway-perfect poise, flashing a smile that sparkles like her tiara.
The state’s reigning Mrs. Georgia America, crowned this February, Hodges has enjoyed the community outreach and charitable causes she’s been involved with.
“I’ve had an opportunity to do a lot of fundraisers,” said Hodges, 26, who focuses on charities that benefit cancer research. “The first time a little girl walked up to me and called me a princess, I melted. To have something in common with the little girls of Georgia is pretty great.”
But this beauty queen has a dark side. A really dark side.
Starting Sept. 28 through Halloween season, Hodges will be lurking in the shadows outside the Netherworld Haunted House, ready to scare the pants off visitors before they even get inside. Here is a link to Netherworld’s web site for hours, dates, prices and other details.
A health care IT professional by day, Hodges balances her pageantry with another hobby on the opposite end of the sartorial spectrum: as a haunted house gargoyle.
“The first time you scare someone and they fall on the ground, you’re addicted,” Hodges said in the same sweet voice she used to describe her pageant platform. “I have people talk to me. They’ll say, ‘what are you?’ I ask them what they are. Sometimes people run up to me and say, ‘boo!’ I scare them and they run away.”
She got into the beauty queen business as sort of a lark, having never competed before this year, when she claimed the Mrs. Georgia America crown. She’s been in the haunted house business a little longer, having started four years ago assisting makeup artist Roy Wooley. This is her second year in costume.
Hodges and Wooley came to the AJC this week so that we could witness the transformation from glam to ghoul. Practically speaking, a pretty face like Hodges’ is a challenge for a makeup artist tasked with creating horrific beings. They both say that getting into character on the outside spurs a change on the inside, too.
“I’m usually a very bubbly, outgoing person. Roy usually has to tell me to stop talking,” Hodges said. But once Wooley begins turning her into a creature, she feels herself becoming more stern.
“That happens a lot with the actors,” Wooley said. “They start getting into character in the chair. They see the makeup and start to transform.”
By the way you can watch Wooley in action on “Face-Off,” the Syfy channel’s reality show for makeup artists. Details on that here. This is Wooley’s 15th year at Netherworld, which is celebrating its 16th year and predicts at least 50,000 visitors this season. As you might guess, Wooley loves Halloween.
“It’s the one time of year to be somebody else,” he said. “You can change the way you look, the way you act and no one thinks you’re weird.”
Hodges’ gargoyle and beauty queen alter ego have a few things in common. It takes endurance to prance around in heels for hours, and it takes endurance to remain terrifying for hours.
“If it rains, or if it’s very cold at the end of the season or hot at the beginning – it’s work,” Hodges said. “So is walking in high heels for rehearsal for a pageant.”
In both cases people who see her expect a certain type of persona, whether it’s the charming pageant winner or the angry gargoyle.
She’s posed for photos with people in both get-ups. And she could think of at least one example of overlap, when a young man became smitten – while she was in her haunted house costume.
“I had a boy ask me to the prom,” she said. “I thought, that’s really bad, if this is what you want to take to the prom!”
Jennifer Brett/The Buzzemail@example.com