A zombie pageant “where beauty EATS brains”

In 2015, a lonely Columbus housewife was murdered. The culprit was the neighborhood milkman; the two were having an affair and he was overcome by rage when he couldn't have her solely for himself.

But the milkman didn't anticipate his lover coming back from the dead for revenge.

“Mama Rose” showed up to tell her story at the first annual “Ms. Living Dead Columbus” pageant, where the contestants are zombies with elaborate backstories and unconventional talents.

“[Mama Rose's] talent was making brain stew and she had a cooking show,” said “Ms. Living Dead Columbus” co-founder and creative director Sam Antics. “She showed up with real cow brain and deer heart and she made them and actually chewed it and spit it out. … So she came hardcore [and] ready to win.”

Mama Rose took the crown and will return to perform at the second edition of the zombie pageant — Antics and company took a break in 2016 — which will take place at Studio 35 Cinema & Drafthouse on Friday, Aug. 25. All proceeds will benefit the Cause for Canines organization, a volunteer-based, all-breed dog rescue.

“We just knew we wanted to do something for charity and we wanted to do something that was cool [and] in our zombie subculture,” said Antics, who is also a makeup artist.

According to the pageant's other co-founder, a local photographer who goes by the name “Panda,” that subculture is limited.

“There's only ‘Zombiewalk' and ‘Zombie Prom,'” Panda said. “A lot of people like that stuff, but there's not that many events, so we started another one.”

But the contestants are not required to be hardcore horror fans.

“[In 2015] we had a lot of girls that actually grew up in the pageant circuit,” Antics said. “They were like, ‘It's a pageant. I'm doing it.' … It was really neat to see them transform into zombies and take what they were used to and doing it in a zombie way.”

“[This year] a lot of our zombies are actually moms, which I think is really cool,” Antics continued.

Among the 10 competing women, there is an aerial dancer, a zombie scientist and even a clown zombie. In other words, you won't see the cliched pageant vocalist or violinist.

“You're not gonna be like, ‘Wow, that person's really talented.' You're gonna be like, ‘Wow, that was cool and interesting or funny,'” Antics said.

“I am ‘ribbon-dancing' with intestines,” said Liz Staples, an optician who will be competing under the moniker “Dusty Broad.” “I am a gymnast that had mysteriously fallen down a flight of stairs and died [and] came back to life. … I never got a chance to perform and win my gold, so I'm gonna win my gold and try to win ‘Ms. Living Dead Columbus.'”

In addition to the talent portion, the contestants must compete in swimsuit and evening-wear rounds. For the latter, they will wear designs made by Tabitha Abney of Tamarie, Jefferey Steele of Raw Steele and Aaron James.

“Everyone's volunteering and they're donating their designs to be bloodied and ripped. And I know they've put a lot of effort into those [creations],” Antics said.

Makeup will be provided by Columbus Airbrush, JanaeFX and SuperNova Makeup Effects. Judges include George Peyton of Lost or Forgotten Photography, Father Seymour Rot of “Zombiewalk Columbus” and special effects makeup artist Bobbi Jo Gonzalez. 9-year-old model and “horror phenom” Alexis Skye will be an honorary judge.

The pageant, which will be hosted by comedian Jesse Jones Melaragno, will also include zombie trivia. Additionally, attendees can use their tickets to see “The Thing,” which Studio 35 will screen following the event.

“We just want people to show up and have a good time and be surprised,” Antics said. She also hopes to unite people in the horror community and beyond.

“We have a lot of people really interested in horror but … everybody is in their own little group and they've got their own meetups,” she said. “I think we just made it a little bit more accessible for all different kinds of people. … I wanted to bring the dark to the light.”