Miss Contraband 2017 Callie Brevelle’s Crowning Achievement: Six Lifelong Contraband Titles
By Danny Garrett
Callie Brevelle of Lake Charles is only 20. Yet she already has a resume that is as full as it is substantive.
She was recently crowned Miss Contraband Days for 2017. It was not an entirely unexpected honor. Her past experience in all that is Contraband Days readied her for this crowning achievement. Brevelle won Petite Miss Contraband 2002, Little Miss Contraband 2004, Deb Miss Contraband 2006, Junior Miss Contraband 2011 and Teen Contraband 2013. The litany of honors made her the first contestant to win all six Contraband Days titles offered.
For those who aren’t familiar with Contraband Days, it’s one of Lake Charles’ largest and oldest festivals. Like its kin, the celebration instills participants with that particular Louisiana variant of “joie de vivre.” Contraband Days is a weekend of entertainment that commemorates the Lake Area’s swashbuckling history with close to 100 attractions. There’s music and dancing, carnival rides, costume contests and boat parades. It’s a well-put-together event that’s a brilliant finished product.
The event takes many dedicated volunteers to make it a success. The festival raises funds for many charitable organizations in the area.
Before Contraband Days begins on May 4, Brevelle prepared to go on a “raid” with the Contraband Days’ organization, The Buccaneers, at the end of April. The raid is one of the lesser known Contraband Days committee events. Participating members visit schools, art galleries, sporting events and the like, decked out in their pirate-themed wardrobes; throwing beads; playing loud music; dancing and raising charitable funds in the process.
One of the organizations the committee supports is Up4Downs of SWLA — a non-profit organization that promotes inclusion in education, housing, healthcare, relationships and recreation for the SWLA Down Syndrome community. Brevelle and the Contraband Days committee also lend their support to Up4Downs by participating in their Step Up 4 Downs Walk, an event that helps raise additional funds to fulfill Up4Downs’ inclusionary mission.
Key lessons can be found in this charitable work; the major one relates to Brevelle, and why she’s so well-deserving to be called Miss Contraband 2017. The lesson’s about product versus process; surface reality versus a more genuine interior one.
It’s true. It’s beautiful to witness Brevelle in the moment of her triumph. She’s been crowned. Her sparkling sash drapes from her right shoulder to the opposing hip. Her black gown flows elegantly behind her as she graces the stage. Her poise and refinement can only be applauded.
But it would be a serious case of short-sightedness to presume she magically awoke one morning in such a triumphant state. On the contrary, Brevelle’s journey to success has been a realistic road of falling down and getting back up; a path that has involved hard work (athletic and academic), insightful planning, and, above all, faith and family.
Brevelle graduated Summa Cum Laude from Alfred M. Barbe High School, where she served as captain for the Barbe JV cheerleaders and as a member on the Barbe Bluebelles. Her early educational experience is but one sign of her precocious maturity. Before Barbe, she attended Grand Lake Elementary and S.J. Welsh.
Brevelle noted that the best advice she received from her teachers was never to underestimate herself and to embrace challenge as well as creativity. She also learned that if one way or method doesn’t work, she should try another — one that most preferably suits her learning style and whole person.
Brevelle followed this advice all the way to LSU and McNeese; she is currently a junior at the latter. She majors in health and human performance, with a concentration in sports medicine.
In her biology and anatomy classes, she finds herself completely absorbed in the study of the way the body works. Brevelle sometimes becomes so immersed in the world of muscles and bones; that vibrant and animated interconnected world of chemical reactions; that she enters a meditative state where it’s only her and the scientific text. This gives her a lightness of being that makes her absorption of knowledge easier.
After she obtains her bachelor’s, she plans to become a physical therapy assistant. In this capacity, she’ll be able to help others; continue to learn about kinesiology; and gain more work experience in her area of expertise. Later, she may decide to enter physical therapy school and study to become a physical therapist.
She has plenty of time to make that decision. Currently, she’s focused on completing her undergraduate degree and serving a strong role as a
McNeese Cowgirl Kicker. Now in her third year, she’s the team’s representative for the MSU Student Government Assoc. and a newly elected Cowgirl Kicker officer.
She would have had similar success at LSU — studying kinesiology and excelling as a Tigerette on the LSU dance team. But after one year in Baton Rouge, she decided she missed home and her family too much.
Brevelle is the daughter of Laurie and Mark Brevelle. She has one sister, Whitney, who’s 10 years younger. According to Brevelle, without them, there would be no direction in her life. They are her whole world.
“My parents did a great job at instilling the role of family in Whitney and me,” said Brevelle, as she recounted the many ways in which her parents were there to lend a helping hand and provide support for her and her sister. “They gave us a lot.”
She recalled her first car, which wasn’t a brand new vehicle hot off the lot. It was a 2002 Firebird in disrepair that her dad found. Mark Brevelle concluded the car would be entirely his daughter’s if she helped rebuild it with him. It was a lesson in passing down knowledge generationally — especially to a family member. Mr. Brevelle’s very handy and has expansive knowledge in all things mechanical — knowledge which has suited him well as service manager at Honda in Lake Charles.
Together, father and daughter fixed the motor and other mechanical workings of the vehicle. At the end, they painted the Firebird hot pink and studded it with rhinestones.
While dad covers the mechanics, mother Laurie covers the math homework. Mrs. Brevelle has the mathematical breadth of a chemical engineer. Whenever Brevelle or Whitney need help in the world of numbers and equations, she’ll be there. She’s begun to conclude that her daughters like to tamp down their efforts in the subject just so Mom can help.
The Brevelles do a great deal together. “We’re very close-knit,” as Brevelle described it. They converse, dine, boat, bike and vacation — all together.
Many of their vacations — to Tennessee, Florida, Texas — have been dance-related. There was always a competition involved.
However, last spring, they were finally able to go on a family trip to Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, without an agenda. There they rode horses, Segwayed and basked in the clear turquoise waters of the Caribbean Sea. It was bliss.
It’s no surprise Brevelle counts this as one of her favorite trips. She was able to engage with her passion for kinetic and creative energy, all the while having the chance to step back for a moment and take in the beautiful Dominican scenery and reflect on how much of a blessing her family has been.
She has similar moments back home in Lake Charles. Brevelle teaches dance at Tammy Palmer’s Center Stage, and choreography for local cheer and dance teams, too. Her sister, Whitney, seems to be following in her footsteps, enjoying dance, participating in Contraband Days and appreciating the strong role family plays in her life.
Brevelle adores her younger sister. She describes her as someone who’s her own person and has a free-spirited personality. Whitney will sometimes crawl in bed with Brevelle just to talk, or to help her study for an upcoming exam. (Imagine a 10-year-old calling out collegiate-level scientific terms.) Whitney hopes college won’t be this difficult when she gets there in eight years.
Whenever Brevelle faces adversity or when negative thoughts begin to cloud her judgment, she finds strength in her faith in a loving God and her continued recognition that her family will always be there. Her father has always said, “Stay true to yourself, and be the best version of yourself” and everything else will fall into place.
It’s very difficult for Brevelle to stray from this path. She wants to be the best role model she can for her younger sister. Brevelle often has to ask herself, “What would I do in this situation to ensure I’m a positive role model for Whitney?” She knows Whitney’s watching, and she wants her little sister to be someone who goes through life doing right by others and being true to herself in the process.
Brevelle has been an excellent role model for her sister by studying hard, doing things for others through community service, recognizing the importance of family and following her passions in science and dance.
This is in essence Miss Contraband 2017 — a title very much deserved by Brevelle. She grew up with the Buccaneers crew; they are her family, too. Peruse the Brevelle family scrapbook, and you’ll find photos of Jean Lafitte carrying a younger version of Brevelle at his hip.
“They [Buccaneers] are such compassionate, kind-hearted, and genuine people, who not only love their organization, but also love the people of this community. And they are always willing to help anyone and everyone out there. I love how they love people.” Brevelle went on to say how honored she is to represent them and to have been, and continue to be, a part of their lives.
When you see Brevelle at Contraband Days or at a Buccaneers raid, you clearly see a young woman who has reached a grand milestone in her life. You may not always know the process that got her there. “Process” can be a tricky concept: one that suggests change is unceasing. Brevelle knows that she may change in some ways in the future, but that essential parts of her will remain unchanged. Chief among them is her 110-percent work ethic and her ability to relax and reflect after (and even before) the work.
All of this falls in line with her passion for dance and community service. And without question, the central importance she places on family will always be an unchanging part of her identity, whether the family is her faith family, her immediate family or the Buccaneers.