Rita Phillips didn’t grow up as a pageant queen. Now in her 70s, she’s competing for the title of Ms. Senior Arizona. Phillips, whose talent is singing, is the only woman from the Sun Cities participating in the pageant.

Dave Martinez/Daily News-Sun

Rita Phillips has watched the Ms. Senior Arizona pageant a few times, but it never crossed her mind to enter the contest.

But in a few days the Sun City West resident will compete for the title of Ms. Senior Arizona 2011 at North Canyon High School in Phoenix. And even if she doesn’t win on Saturday, Phillips said she’s having a great time being involved in the pageant and making new friends.

“I’m having such a blast with it all,” said Phillips, the sole contestant from the Sun Cities. “I admire everyone involved because it takes a lot of gusto to do this in front of everyone.”

Phillips has competed for two or three years in Senior Idol competitions in Surprise and most recently Senior Idol in the Skye at Skye Restaurant in Peoria.

During Idol in the Skye, Phillips met Ms. Senior Arizona 2007 Sharon Friendly, who encouraged her to enter the pageant.

“I never thought of doing it when I was younger,” she said, “but there is no time like the present.”

Since joining the pageant, Phillips said Ms. Senior Arizona officials have been helpful to her and the other 14 contestants.

They have been rehearsing for the last five weeks at Sierra Winds Life Care in Peoria. But the women will take to the North Canyon High stage for the final show.

For more than four years, Phillips has been singing, mostly with the Soul Benefactors, raising money for charity, and in talent shows.

The Pittsburgh native will sing the classic “Put Your Head on My Shoulders” for the talent round. But the biggest task has been finding gowns for the pageant.

With the help of her husband, Phillips picked out the perfect dress.

“He gave me the thumbs up when he first saw it,” she said. “(Bill) is very supportive of everything I do, and I’m glad to have him in my corner.”

As the pageant gets closer, Phillips said she’s not nervous and doesn’t consider the pageant a competition.

“I’m just there to have fun and enjoy,” she said. “And if I win, then that will be icing on the cake. But I would be a little shocked and overwhelmed.”

More than anything, Phillips is enjoying the company of the contestants.

“Everyone is very kind one to another, and it’s almost like a sisterhood,” she said. “This has been such a very rewarding experience.”

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