By Kim Hartman
Sherri Leaf was down but not out. She had worked too hard to give up now.
After 10 consecutive hours of vomiting from food poisoning and spending 12 hours in the emergency room, Leaf came back and competed in the Miss Florida 2006 pageant, which took place this summer in Miami. She was one of 10 contestants hospitalized for eating bad chicken and couscous on July 4.
“Four of us were in one ambulance together, and while we were at the hospital, more girls kept showing up,” Leaf recalled. “And out of all of them, I was labeled the sickest of the sick. It was bad.”
But the graphic design student, who earned third runner up at Miss Florida USA 2005, demonstrated dedication and resilience.
Two nights after getting ill, Leaf bounced back to represent Flagler College on the state-wide level in the preliminaries, which included three different performances: swimsuit, talent and evening gown.
Her talent was quickdraw painting to the song, “Gimme Some Lovin'” by the Spencer Davis Group. The following night, there was a huge gala with breakfast food.
“The food was so good,” Leaf said. “They had sausages, pancakes, bacon, eggs, everything. I mean, people think that beauty pageant competitors starve themselves, but I’ve never seen girls who eat so much in my life.”
Prior to the competition, all 40 contestants attended a Marlins game, where they signed autographs and were introduced on the field at Dolphins Stadium.
“It was the best part of the pageant,” Leaf said. “I love sports, and being able to watch the Marlins play the Red Sox was amazing.”
The pageant came to a close on July 8, and the contestants traveled back to their homes.
“I met a lot of good girls,” Leaf said. “These are high-achieving, well-rounded, driven people with great personalities. And making friends with these kinds of people is just wonderful.”
Recent Flagler graduate, Jessica Minch, competed with Leaf and was a semi-finalist in Miss Florida 2006.