Meet Ms. Senior America

Writer / Julie Yates
Photography Provided

When Debbie Blakeman Robbins won the title of Ms. Senior America 2023, people who have heard her sing or give motivational speeches were not surprised. With her warm and engaging manner, Robbins advocates for seniors while mentoring the young. Her love of music and singing career began when she was a young girl and has continued through adulthood. This latest chapter is a natural progression of her life experiences.Ms. Senior America

The Ms. Senior America competition exists to showcase women with state titles who are at least 60 years old and have reached what the organization proclaims as “the age of elegance.” Robbins is no stranger to pageant scholarship competitions. As a young woman she placed in the top 10 for both Miss Kentucky and Miss Tennessee. Later, she served on the board of and coached candidates for Miss Louisville.

She entered Ms. Senior America as an at-large candidate representing Kentucky at the pageant held this past September at the Hershey Lodge and Convention Center in Pennsylvania. Since Kentucky doesn’t have an active affiliated organization, Robbins submitted her credentials, proving she would be a viable candidate and was approved. Contestants wore evening gowns while being evaluated on speeches about their life philosophy, their grace, poise, talent performances and individual interviews.

“It was the first pageant the organization has held since COVID. I am so honored to have won the title. It’s already been such a blessing and a joy,” Robbins says.

There were several reasons that Robbins decided to enter the competition, but a major one was to highlight the contributions seniors make to society. She attributes her success as a professional singer to older people who took an interest in her and nurtured her talent. It all began with the lady who played piano at her childhood church.

“I started playing the piano at age five. Every Sunday, I would slip out of the pew and run down to the piano during the service. My mom had four other kids to keep track of and she gave up trying to stop me. The lady playing the piano told her it was all right and let me sit next to her. At the time, my mom was trying to take piano lessons herself, and I horned in on them. In the end, my mom just let me take the lessons,” Robbins says.

Robbins also developed a love of singing. She attended The Lincoln Jamboree in Hodgenville with her family and heard a girl about her age sing. After purchasing the girl’s 45 RPM record, Robbins sang along with it over and over. Her parents realized she had a singing voice and her first solo at church was “I Saw the Light.” As a 10-year-old fourth grader, she entered her first talent show and sang “I Know You’ve Been Fooling Around.” On school field trips, her friends would ask her to sing and lead songs during the bus rides.

“I parlayed that into joining a country band at age 12. I sang and played the piano every weekend for two years. Then, at age 14, I started singing gospel. In high school, I did musical theatre and two teachers really inspired me—my drama musical teacher, Jane Rose, and my choral director, Jean Batts,” she says.

When Robbins was 15, she was singing gospel in a supper club. The chaplain from Fort Knox was in the audience and he invited her to come to the military base and give a concert. That began a multi-year experience which started in high school and continued for several decades. Robinson performed for military personnel in places like Germany, Japan and Korea.

Ms. Senior America“Meanwhile, I earned a degree in vocal performance at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee. I was greatly inspired by my voice teacher who was a professional advertising jingle singer. I ended up loving it all- Christian music, country and jingles. After graduating, I went to Opryland USA. I did some shows with Minnie Pearl. She was a lovely, dignified person. Her stage persona was an act she put on,” Robbins says.

When Robbins was in her mid-thirties, she was introduced to her husband-to-be, Scott Robbins, by mutual friends. Told that she would be unable to have children, the couple was thrilled when at age 44, she gave birth to their now 17-year-old son, Jackson Scott Sumner Robbins.

Robbins laughs when she thinks back on naming their baby. “We knew he would be our only child, so we gave him all those names,” Robbins says. “He keeps me young. In another life I would have a bed and breakfast. I love hosting and cooking for him and all his friends.”

In fact, working with young people was a second major reason Robbins entered the Ms. Senior America Competition. Through her work with local scholarship competitions, she has coached young women with resume building, interview skills and crafting a personal.

“A young person I worked for said ‘If there is a pageant for older women, you need to do it.’ So, I decided to execute and practice all the things I have been teaching young people for years. I went with the mindset to win. At each event, there are always two to four real contenders among the 50 participants. They are the ones who really want it. I was there to make friends, but I stayed focused,” Robbins says.

When asked if her family was in the audience cheering her on, Robbins thoughtfully replied.

“There was nobody there by my choice. My son had just started the school year and he would have had to miss a cross country meet…plus, he had heard me sing so many times before. My family had been with me when I competed in Miss Kentucky and Miss Tennessee, and I didn’t want them to worry that I would get hurt by not winning again. I didn’t tell my mother until the day I left. Since I wasn’t worried about my family, I could really focus,” she says.

In the end, her family got together and watched the competition on Facebook Live. For the talent portion, Robbins sang “Climb Every Mountain” from “Sound of Music”. She felt the song, written by Rogers and Hammerstein, was appropriate since in the musical, it is sung by the mature character of Mother Abbess.

“I feel the song is hopeful and timeless. It reminds people to go after their dreams, no matter what. It may take a lifetime, but gifts and talents never go away. You may have to dust them off, but they are still there. I feel that in life, people are either headed for a storm, in the middle of a storm or coming out of a storm. You must push and pray until something happens,” Robbins says.

“When I entered the pageant, I was looking for a new adventure. I was thrilled and grateful to God when I won. Seniors are one of our most valuable resources and treasures. Other cultures realize that they can profoundly affect lives and help young people make decisions. Our job as seniors is to pour knowledge into our children,” she says.

Ms. Senior America 2023, Debbie Robbins, is available to make appearances at events.

For more information call 502-693-5452 or email or

Debbie Robbins is on Instagram @deborahthebee.Ms. Senior America

Comments 1

  1. Jo Ansert says:

    Debbie. You are Beautiful. Your Crown a long time waiting. . So happy for you. Your beautiful family. Jackson has grown up. How isMom. I know your voice blew them away. You have not had your recognition yet. You will. God. Bless. Jo. Ansert

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