WILMINGTON, N.C. March 20th, 2019- The North Carolina Azalea Festival is excited to announce Queen Azalea and Invited Guests of the 2019 Azalea Festival. These guests will be attending multiple events throughout the week of April 3-7, 2019.
2019 Queen Azalea Briana Venskus
The North Carolina Azalea Festival’s 2019 Queen Azalea is Briana Venskus, an actress and production assistant with a career in film production. She has spent 10 years building her career in film, while also becoming a strong voice for the LGBTQ community in the film industry. She grew up in Wilmington, NC and attended The University of North Carolina School of the Arts where her interest in drama soared to new heights. Venskus’ interest in acting continued as she moved to Los Angeles, California and received a Bachelor of Fine Arts in acting from the California Institute of the Arts in 2009. While attending the Institute, she made her first screen debut in 2007’s Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story. During her time as an actress, Venskus also began her career in film production working behind the scenes as a production assistant on TV shows such as Dexter, True Blood, Bones, Happy Endings, and the widely known 2009 film, The Fast & the Furious. She continued to make appearances on screen with small or uncredited roles before playing her first major role as Precious in 2014’s Let’s Be Cops, which also starred Jake Johnson and Damon Wayans Jr. from the popular TV series New Girl. Since then, she has played many recognizable roles in hit TV shows like Nashville and the Netflix original series Grace and Frankie. If you are familiar with AMC’s The Walking Dead, you will recognize Venskus as Beatrice, who appeared on the show from 2016 to 2018. She is also one of the few actresses to play notable roles in both DC and Marvel Cinematic universes. Marvel fans will recognize her as Agent Piper in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., while fans of DC Comics remember her as Agent Vasquez in the CW series Supergirl. Venskus continues to gain popularity in the film industry and make a name for herself in production.
2019 Azalea Festival Princess Claire-Emma Britt
Claire-Emma Britt, a junior from John T. Hoggard High School, was crowned the 2019 North Carolina Azalea Festival Princess during the 71st Annual North Carolina Azalea Festival scholarship pageant on Saturday, March 2nd. She and her court were selected from among 21 contestants representing 6 area high schools. Claire-Emma is a student-athlete, playing both basketball and soccer. She is also a member of the National Beta Club, a tutor for “Readers are Leaders,” as well as an Ambassador for the Substance Misuse Awareness Committee. Outside of school, she enjoys babysitting, traveling to unique places and spending time around our beautiful city. After high school, she would like to attend nursing school at UNC-Chapel Hill, ECU or UNCW to pursue her passion of becoming a travel nurse.
Claire-Emma’s Court includes: 1st Runner-Up from Coastal Christian High School, Shoshana Stowe, 2nd Runner-Up, from John T. Hoggard High School, Jessi Hoadley 3rd Runner-Up, from Cape Fear Academy, Ella Rogers, and 4th Runner-Up, also from John T. Hoggard, Elissa Hall.
2019 North Carolina Azalea Festival Invited Guests
Tamera Young- WNBA Veteran
Tamera Young is an 11-year WNBA veteran and CEO of TY1Gear LLC; graduated from E. A. Laney High School in 2004; inducted into the E. A. Laney Hall of Fame in 2012 where her #11 jersey is retired. Graduated from James Madison University in 2008 majoring in Kinesiology, at that time ranking as the Colonial Athletic Association’s and JMU’s Women’s basketball career scoring leader and no. 2 career rebounder; inducted into the JMU Athletic Hall of Fame in 2018. Tamera is the first female from James Madison University to be drafted to the WNBA; First-round draft pick (#8 pick overall) by Atlanta Dream in 2008; Played nine seasons with Chicago Sky. Currently playing with Las Vegas Aces, (2nd season with Vegas).
Grace Boyles- National Cherry Festival Queen
Laura Matrazzo- Miss North Carolina 2018
Bergen DeLeeuw – 2019 Azalea Festival Artist
Bergen’s work reflects a celebration of God’s majesty in all the beauty he has created. Through her art, she brings nature’s small intricacies to the forefront. By layering soft, organic strokes, Bergen seeks to create pieces that invite the viewer to reflect on the simplicities that make life beautiful. Bergen has loved painting for as long as she can remember. Having no formal art training, coming into this vocation has been the result of a lifelong expression. Creating custom work for clients that exemplifies their taste and shares Bergen’s heart has been more rewarding than she ever could have imagined. She is thankful to have work displayed in homes and collections across the United States as well as internationally. Bergen paints from her home studio in Hampstead, North Carolina, which she shares with her husband, Andrew, who serves in the Navy and their two-year-old son who adds happy little strokes to all of Bergen’s paintings. She loves having his tiny hands in all of her work; it reminds her to not take herself too seriously, stop and enjoy life’s beautiful moments, and remember that nothing great is achieved alone.
Major General James Everette Livingston, MOH, USMC (Retired)
Major General Livingston is the most highly decorated Marine Infantry Officer of the Vietnam War with honors including: the Medal of Honor; Distinguished Service Medal; Silver Star Medal; Defense Superior Service Medal; Bronze Star Medal, with Combat “V”; Purple Heart, Third Award; Defense Meritorious Service Medal; Meritorious Service Medal, Second Award; Navy Commendation Medal, with Combat “V”; Combat Action ribbon, Second Award; and various other service and foreign Decorations. After Major General Livingston’s retirement, he served as a Board Member and Chairman of the National World War II Museum Foundation in New Orleans. He is married to the former Sara Craft, and they have two daughters, Kimberly and Melissa.
Steffanie B. Easter
Mrs. Steffanie B. Easter assumed responsibilities as the Director, Navy Staff in June 2018. In her role as Director, she serves as the senior Chief of Naval Operations (OPNAV) civilian and coordinates enterprise level efforts across the entire OPNAV staff. Principally, Ms. Easter ensures alignment of more than 400 Flag Officers and Senior Executives, providing indispensable advice and support to the Chief of Naval Operations and the Secretary of the Navy. Mrs. Easter was appointed to the Senior Executive Service in December 2002 and has over 30 years of Federal Service.
Manley Pope is an award-winning performer, director, writer, producer, and lecturer who began his career traveling the world as a model for fashion’s top designers. He is best known for his breakout role as Devon Whitelaw on the hit FOX television series Sweet Valley High and on Broadway, starring as Roger Davis in the Tony and Pulitzer Prize Award-winning musical RENT. He is currently Guest Starring on CBS’s Blue Bloods, as the slick and charming bouncer King and CSI Miami fans will recognize him as Rick “V-Ray” Graves, leader of the notorious Crypt Kings biker gang. Manley is a native of Wilmington.
All North Carolina pageant title-holders, competiting for the Miss North Carolina crown in June
Miss Johnston County Miss Cabarrus County
Miss Wilmington Miss Moore County
Miss Asheville Miss Randolph County
From Virginia Military Institute
Since its inception in 1948, the North Carolina Azalea Festival has blossomed into an extended weekend celebration that attracts more than 300,000 people and generates more than $51 million for the local economy. The Festival showcases our community’s rich array of artwork, gardens, history, and culture through recreational, educational and family-oriented events. The North Carolina Azalea Festival at Wilmington, Inc. is a 501(c)3 non-profit.
The North Carolina Azalea Festival Thanks Its Sponsors!
New Hanover Printing
North Carolina Education Lottery
New Hanover Regional Medical Center
Hawthorne Residential Partners
Sarah E. Pless, DDS: Renaissance Dental Studio
TRUgaming / TRUstreaming
Community Foundation of NC East
Wilmington Convention Center
BlueCross and BlueShield of NC
South State Bank
North Carolina Ports
Prestige Beverage Group
Social House Vodka
Wilmington Dermatology Center
East Coast Autos & Trailers
Academy Sports + Outdoors
BMW of Wilmington
Corning Credit Union
Wrightsville Beach Magazine
El Cerro / Zocalo
RV Transportation Provided by Rex and Sons RV’s
Transportation Provided by Neuwirth Motors
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