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Beauty and BRAINS

The night before Halloween, six undead females battled it out for the honor to be named Miss IE Zombie

It was just like any other beauty pageant.

Contestants competed in categories such as talent, swimsuit, evening gown and question-answer.

Well, except the fog machine.

And the costumed members of the audience.

And the "armed" guards leading the contestants to the stage.

Oh, and all the contestants were zombies.

About 150 people came to the Fox Event Center in Redlands to watch six women battle it out to be crowned Miss IE Zombie Queen during the first such pageant for the region.

The idea of comic creator A.J. Herrera, the event brought contestants with names such as Scarylnn Bloodroe, Haris Pilton and Zombri. The six women limped and growled and strutted their stuff, all while covered in makeup that took all day to apply, wearing outfits suited to their "undead" lifestyle.

It was both high camp and serious fun. The crowd was treated to an opening dance number choreographed to "Thriller," followed by a talent contest that included dancing, comedy and music -- all with a slightly zombie bent. Each contestant was led to the stage by a member of the Zombie Kill Squad -- the name of one of Herrera's comic creations -- to make sure that no one in the audience was subject to losing their brains.

And it was the audience, threatened all night, who decided on the winner. Lining up the six, each eliminated contest was "gunned down" by security, leaving only the winner -- Zombri -- standing with her crown and sash.

Zombri was Redlands resident Brianna Maynard, who smiled through all the makeup, finally dropping out of character, while meeting with friends and family after the show. The all-day makeup session was worth it to her, if only to show that zombies could be beautiful, too.

"It's nice to get lost in a fantasy world," she said. "Just something fun."

The pageant wasn't the first of its kind across the country -- and world -- as zombies become more and more a part of pop culture thanks to movies and TV shows such as "The Walking Dead." Winner Maynard hopes that the Redlands event can grow next year.

"I thought there would be a pretty good turnout, which I think it was for the first time," Maynard said. "I'm hoping for more contestants next year, as well as people showing up next year."

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