Students to compete for Miss Florida

Minch and Leaf prove there’s more to pageants than beauty

By Kimberly Hosey
Photo Contributed

PHOTO CAPTION: Jessica Minch, the reigning Miss River City Jacksonville, will compete along side senior Sherri Leaf in the Miss Florida this July.

When some people think of a “beauty queen” they do not usually describe girls like senior Jessica Minch or Sherri Leaf. Both girls are extremely intelligent, responsible, poised and just all-around friendly.

The two Flagler students are exactly what a beauty queen should be and have proved that by becoming eligible to compete in the Miss Florida pageant. A win at Miss Florida in July would take one of them to the Miss America pageant.

Crowned Miss River City Jacksonville in early March, Minch is now considered a veteran of the pageant world after four years of experience.

“There really wasn’t much opportunity for me to continue ballet at Flagler, so I started doing pageants, that way I could still dance and be on stage,” Minch said.

Out of five categories for the competition, Minch won overall interview, best talent and the swimsuit competition, along with the first place prize.

Leaf, a former athlete, competed in her first pageant in high school and continued competing in college. She is now the reigning Miss St. Augustine and was Miss Jacksonville USA last year. E
xplaining that she could not dance or sing, she decided she would put her graphic design major classes to use and paint for two minutes on stage.

“Not only is it creative, but painting also entertains the audience,” Leaf said.

Minch and Leaf are not just competitors for the Miss Florida crown, but also good friends. They met while competing against each other, and Leaf says that Minch was the one with more experience.

“While Jessica was competing against me, she was helping me at the same time. She even took me to her house during the competition. Not many people would do that,” Leaf said.

Both girls explain that pageantry is not only about being on stage, but about being able to further their educations through winning scholarship rewards that usually range from $500 or more.
The money pays for a significant portion of both girls’ tuition at Flagler College.

As Leaf put it, these competitions are not just about beauty queens on parade, but also about showing people that you are intelligent. The Miss America Web site shows that $45 million dollars worth of cash and scholarship assistance was given out by the Miss America Organization last year. That is the largest source of scholarships for girls in the world.

“Through competing I have acquired unbelievable interview skills that will give me an edge when I am trying to get a job,” Leaf said. Many of the pageant girls view the costs as an educational expense.

Each girl must run on a platform topic. As a business major and member of the Students in Free Enterprise team at Flagler, Minch’s topic is one she studies every day: “Making the Right Choice: Ethics in Today’s Society.” She speaks to different groups about the importance of ethics in today’s business world.

Leaf says that her topic is “Fitness and Nutrition in Today’s Youth” and she spreads the word to a local Girl Scout troop and students at R.B. Hunt Elementary, among others.

When asked about stereotypes of beauty queens and public misconceptions, both girls have the same answer — You can’t let it get to you.

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