WILMINGTON — The North Carolina Azalea Festival committee is pleased to announce its 2018 Queen Azalea, Beth Troutman. Invited guests include Adrian Wood, Miss North Carolina 2017 Victoria Huggins, Chef Vivian Howard, and Festival artist Virginia Wright-Frierson.

Beth Troutman — Queen Azalea

Beth Troutman is an Emmy Award-winning television personality and motivational speaker. She has spent nearly 20 years in the television industry working both in front of the camera and behind the scenes. Beth has hosted local and nationally syndicated TV shows and has appeared on The Today Show, Extra, HLN, Home & Family, Good Day New York, Good Day LA & Good Day Chicago. Her career began in Los Angeles where a cold-call led to a position working for the hit show The West Wing. After four years with the show, she was asked to run for the US House of Representatives in North Carolina’s 8th Congressional District.

At the young age of 27, Beth was first woman to run for Congress in NC-8. Although she lost the election, she ran a close race and was then offered a job as the host of the television morning show FOX News Rising. While working for FOX, Beth covered everything from politics to pop culture and was a Red Carpet Correspondent at the American Idol Finale during three of its most popular seasons.

In 2009 Beth landed a gig as the host of the nationally televised morning show The Balancing Act on Lifetime Television. In 2011, she moved back out west to help launch the nationally syndicated show Right This Minute. With Beth as the Lead Host, RTM was the #1 New Syndicated Show on TV.

It aired in more than 200 television markets across the U.S. and was also syndicated internationally. She helped sign deals with MGM, Sony and FOX. Beth returned to her home state of North Carolina in 2015 to be the main anchor of NBC-Charlotte’s evening newscasts. While at NBC, Beth covered the 2016 Olympics Live from Rio de Janeiro. She was also the host of the Sunday political show Flashpoint. Most recently, Beth spent time living at an orphanage in Haiti providing aid, assistance, and support to the local children and community. While in Haiti, she shot a series of short documentaries that recently won two Emmy Awards. Beth now travels the globe speaking to thousands about purpose, priorities, success and finding joy in a world of sensory overload. She is a graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill where she received degrees in Political Science and Women’s Studies.

Adrian Wood — Blogger, Tales of an Educated Debutante

Adrian was born and raised in Eastern North Carolina. She grew up in Rocky Mount and on her resumé, you will find preschool teacher, nanny, children’s ski instructor, early interventionist, college professor, early childhood researcher, wife and full time mama. She and her husband Thomas, who grew up in Raleigh, have lived in Edenton for fourteen years and have three sons and a daughter, from 12 to 4. She began writing in 2016 after a twenty-year hiatus and offers personal glimpses into a life where satire meets truth, faith meets irony, despair meets joy and this educated debutante escapes the laundry and finds true meaning in graceful transparency.

She has over 50,000 followers on social media and her blog, Tales of an Educated Debutante, has several million page views per month. In it, she shares the good, the bad and the ugly of a wonderful life which like everyone else’s is not a easy path. She shares glimpses of what it is like to be a grieving sister, a mom that feels never quite good enough, a bad juggler of four children and the real deal of being mother to a little boy with a bright smile who is four years old, with extra special needs.

Victoria Huggins — Miss North Carolina 2017

Victoria Huggins has enjoyed traveling as a professional motivational speaker and vocalist upon request nationwide since the age of seven. She has been honored to represent her community on a variety of television shows including It’s Showtime at the Apollo (1998), Star Search (2000), American Idol (Top 100, 2011), and the American Bible Challenge (2014). Because of these and other wonderful opportunities, Victoria has been invited to share her testimony and musical gifts in YMCA’s, schools, fairs, and churches across the country.

On June 24, 2017, Victoria was crowned the 80th Miss North Carolina. She earned a $20,000 scholarship in addition to being chosen as the recipient of the Dana Reason Quality of Life Award, Preliminary Talent Award, and Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals Miracle Maker Award. Over the past five years in the Miss North Carolina Organization, Victoria has raised over $50,000 for her personal platform The Alz Project: Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness, Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, and the Miss North Carolina Educational Scholarship Fund. Victoria is an Alzheimer’s Association Ambassador and is a strong advocate of music therapy.

Victoria is a graduate student at Johns Hopkins University, studying government with an emphasis in political communication. In 2015, she graduated Cum Laude from the University of North Carolina at Pembroke with a bachelor of science degree in mass communication with a double minor in religion and music. Victoria is grateful for the scholarships earned through the Miss America Organization, her community service efforts, and academic excellence; allowing her to pursue her educational goals debt free.

Before capturing the crown, Victoria worked at WECT/WSFX in Wilmington, North Carolina as the Morning News Producer and Reporter. She aspires to be a Political Analyst for a national news network.

Chef Vivian Howard — Chef and the Farmer, Benny’s Big Time Pizzeria; A Chef’s Life on PBS

Writing a description of yourself is really hard. But under instruction to list the things that make me, me – I’d have to say I’m a first-time author whose young adult self-dreamt of being a writer. I’m the mother of a twin boy and girl who once doubted her maternal instincts. I’m a chef who cooks for therapy. I’m a lucky daughter who counts her parents among her friends. I’m a strong-willed wife who loves her husband but often struggles to work with him. And I’m a television personality who can’t bear to look at herself in pictures. My greatest strengths are fearlessness, creativity, enthusiasm, and humor. My most frustrating weaknesses are patience, organization, and numbers.

I always thought winning awards was for someone else and have been genuinely happy to be named a semifinalist four times in a row for James Beard Foundation Best Chef Southeast. But this past year, I won a JBF award for Best Television Personality and I have to say, winning made me happier than being nominated.

Virginia Wright-Frierson — Official festival artist

Virginia states, “I am delighted that every year, the North Carolina Azalea Festival commissions an original artwork for its Spring celebration. We are a community so rich in Coastal beauty and creativity. Each year we come together in April to celebrate the return of the Spring season with this unique festival, always evolving with the times while still celebrating traditions that reflect our local beauty and talents. A parade, tours of homes and gardens, art exhibits, concerts, and our breath-taking trees and flowers. Nothing is more typical of Wilmington than our azaleas, thriving and abundant despite our changing climate. The ones I have painted for this year’s poster, with oils on paper, are from one single twig which featured peach, coral, the palest pink, white and striped buds and flowers. The diversity of these amazing flowers can be enjoyed all over parks and neighborhoods in Wilmington at this time of year, and truly deserve a festival in their honor!”

Virginia Wright-Frierson earned her BFA degree in painting from the University of North Carolina, Greensboro, and furthered her studies in Cortona, Italy, New York and Arizona. She and her husband, Dargan, settled in Wilmington in 1977.

Her record includes over 30 exhibitions in the southeastern United States as well as Italy. Her work is included in museum, private and corporate collections. Here locally, she has painted large murals for the Wilmington Children’s Museum and New Hanover County Library in addition to her work at Airlie Gardens. Virginia was the designer of the Bottle Chapel, a Memorial to Minnie Evans, at Airlie Gardens. Nationally, she has painted a monumental mural for the atrium ceiling at Columbine High School after the tragedy, as well as being commissioned by Savannah College of Art and Design to create a multi-paneled mural for an exhibition honoring victims and heroes of 9/11.

In addition, she has written and illustrated children’s books and has received numerous public art commissions.