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6 inch strappy stilettos and swimsuits that in no way could hold up to strong ocean wave. Law students and piano concertos. The seemingly paradoxical combination is just that to describe 46 of the states most promising young women in town for the 75th annual Miss Florida pageant happening this week in St. Petersburg.
Miss Congeniality has left the building.
And the outgoing Miss Florida, Rachel Todd, is case in point.
From her long red hair, fashion forward dresses, and revolutionary community service ideas, this young lady said in her farewell video Thursday night seen at the preliminary competition at Mahaffey Theater, “The program has allowed me to be me.”
And that is what the organizers of the Miss Florida program, an affiliate of the Miss America Organization, say is what it is all about. Celebrating the women of today while offering them the chance to hone their skills, confidence, and professional experience and networks.
“This year has been the most hectic, busy amazing year of my life,” says Todd.
Since winning the title of Miss Florida last July, Rachel Todd has traveled almost 35,000 miles on behalf of the Miss Florida Organization and her platform, homelessness. She’s excited for this years contestants, who have been busing rehearsing in St. Petersburg for the competition.
“They sacrifice their time because they know the experience can really help them in their lives,” notes Todd.
Miss America is unique because it includes a talent competition and awards more scholarship money to young women than any other program in the world, over $45 million just last year. But what makes it truly special, the entire program is volunteer based. Every person that makes the Miss Florida program possible gives of their time because they believe in the program.
One of those volunteers is Miss Florida 1990, Dana Dalton Judge. Judge now serves as an Executive Board Member and Director of Media Relations for Miss Florida and feels honored to give back to a program that gave her so many opportunities. She also touts the program’s progression from a swimsuit competition in Atlantic City.
“If you know how it started and how many millions of dollars in scholarship money has been given to young women, and promoted their education and careers, its really an unbelievable system,” asserts Judge.
In recent years the Miss America Pageant has struggled with televisions ratings and sponsorships. Yet earlier this year, pageant officials signed a 3-year contract with ABC to broadcast the pageant. There is also talk of bringing the competition back to New Jersey, after moving it to Las Vegas in 2006.
But those who know the program say the real key to Miss America’s future is to stay true to its mission: providing unparalleled school, community and personal opportunities for each and every contestant.
“The girl who comes to the pageant and doesn’t necessarily win an award may be the one who learns the most because she has never had that type of experience.” adds Judge.
But for that one, Saturday night will be the beginning of a dream come true as she is crowned Miss Florida 2010. She’ll represent our state at the Miss America pageant in January.
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