Every mother thinks her baby is the cutest in the world.
But Tahisha Williams-Townsend, a 32-year-old North Toledo resident can prove it.
Her 2-year-old daughter, Mercy Townsend, was recently chosen as grand-prize winner of the first Gerber Generation Photo Search. The online contest to find a new advertising face as part of the company's Gerber Generation marketing campaign was launched in June and ran through November. The competition was open to children up to 4 years old, and Mercy won among nearly 220,000 entries nationwide.
"The judges saw something in her they really liked," Mrs. Williams-Townsend, a nursing assistant, said. "I see it every day and now the rest of the world gets to see it."
Mercy, along with her mom and dad, Damion Townsend, also 32 and a musician, will be taking a trip to New York later this month for a photo shoot for the Toledo toddler. Mercy will also receive a $25,000 college scholarship for placing first.
Cathy Abramski, a spokesman for Gerber, said the judges selected Mercy "because of her visual appeal and expressiveness." Mercy will star in a Gerber Generation print advertising campaign that advocates a healthier future for children through good nutrition, she said. The Gerber advertisement starring Mercy will be featured in select national parenting magazines beginning in May.
And to think Mrs. Williams-Townsend almost didn't enter the girl into the contest. It was only after learning a friend had submitted a picture of her baby in November that she decided to give it a shot. Mrs. Williams-Townsend used a photo of her daughter she posted on Facebook — an all-cheeks-and-smile heart warmer that had friends on the social networking site gushing at her cuteness — and then she promptly forgot about the contest. She never even told her husband about the entry.
"I was confident in Mercy, of course, but then I thought, ‘My gosh, there are some very beautiful babies on here,' " Mrs. Williams-Townsend said.
"I entered her into some of the other contests when she was a baby and she never won, so this was probably going to be one of the last ones."
When Mercy wasn't chosen a monthly winner by online voters, "I really didn't think it would go anywhere," she said.
Then she received an e-mail in early January informing her Mercy was selected grand-prize winner by a panel of judges from Gerber's advertising agency.
"I was thinking like, ‘What! Who are these people?!' I remembered putting her into this contest, but I was really thinking nothing would come of it," she said. "I was so surprised and so shocked, I really didn't believe it."
Mr. Williams was thrilled too, she said, as were their three older children, Selah, 9; Eternity, 7, and Damion, Jr., 4. Even Mercy was excited about the news — or, as excited as a 2-year-old can be about such an accomplishment.
"After we found out we went on the Gerber Web site (gerber.com) and showed her her picture," Mrs. Williams-Townsend said. "She said ‘That's me,' and I told her, ‘You won! You won!' "
The win isn't only special for Mercy, it also means something important to Mrs. Williams-Townsend: a first-time trip to New York and, more important, a first-time flight. A year ago, she recalled, she was telling her husband she would never get on a plane. Her feelings have changed, given the opportunity.
"I'm not really nervous at all," she said. "I'm more excited about it than anything."
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