Tasha Baah, a member of the University of Richmond's track and field team, will compete in the Miss Virginia United States pageant on Sunday, April 19.
Baah, a sophomore psychology and pre-med major, will be competing against 25 other women for the Miss Virginia United States 2009 title and the opportunity to represent the state at the Miss United States Pageant in Las Vegas, Nev., July 11 to 17.
As an aspiring model, Baah said she had never considered entering a pageant before. But when
Chris Wilmer, fashion editor of V Magazine for Women and executive director of the pageant, saw some of her modeling work, he suggested she apply for the competition.
"He thought I could bring diversity [to the competition]," Baah said.
At first, Baah said she had not been sure if she wanted to enter. She talked to her friends and finally decided to give the process a try.
She completed the online application, including three short answer essays, one long essay and three head shots.
The committee approved Baah's application and offered her a scholarship to cover the $300 entry fee.
"I figured, why not? I might as well do it," she said about her reaction after being accepted.
Wilmer said Baah had seemed like a good candidate for the pageant because she was not the stereotypical contestant.
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"We feel that she is a unique young woman," Wilmer said, adding that her energetic attitude and personality had attracted the application board's attention.
In order to prepare for the pageant, Baah said she had kept up her normal routine. As a sprinter for Richmond's track and field team, she said the team practices had helped her stay in shape.
On the morning of the pageant, Baah will have a 15 to 20 minute-long, one-on-one interview with the judges, she said. The swimsuit and evening gown portion of the event will begin later during the day. Contestants will be scored in each category and the top five women participate in an on-stage interview session.
On stage, the women will pick, out of a bowl, one of the questions they had been asked during the morning interview session, Wilmer said. Questions range from "What is your favorite thing about the state of Virginia?" to "What type of philanthropic outreach are you most interested in?"
The questions are meant to help judges ascertain the contestant's personality.
"We want to get the right girl," Wilmer said, adding that the competition was about finding a young woman who was capable of being a role model.
For the swimsuit portion, Baah said she would be wearing a Jessica Simpson Collection halter-top twopiece. The suit is black with a white flower print, which Baah said she really liked.
For the evening gown portion, she said she would be wearing her senior-year prom dress. The gown has a tight tube top covered with a mixture of gold, yellow, pink and orange sequins, and the skirt of the gown is made of a bright, shiny gold fabric.
"When the light hits the top, it just sparkles everywhere," Baah said, noting that she was excited to have an opportunity to wear her prom dress again.
Should she make it to the interview portion, Baah said she would wear a black blazer with pin-striped pants.
Although she was not certain how she will style her hair, Baah said it would be curly. Wilmer connected Baah to stylist Haywood Watkins, who will work with Baah during the pageant. Watkins works at a salon in Richmond and has also worked with Oprah Winfrey and America's Next Top Model Eva Marcille Pigford.
Haywood has given her a lot of insight about what to expect during the pageant, Baah said.
"I'm excited," Baah said. "But I can't lie, I am nervous. It's really going to be a competition and I've never competed before."
Although she would like to win, Baah said she would focus on making it to the top five, who all qualify for the competition in Las Vegas.
Because her 5-foot 6-inch stature is shorter than the average runway model, Baah said she was most interested in commercial fashion work, such as store campaigns and clothing catalogues. She is in the process of building her portfolio and said she hoped the pageant would provide her with networking opportunities.
"I'm doing it for the exposure and for the fun of it," Baah said. "If I win, I win."
If her modeling career does not take off, Baah said she planned to pursue cosmetic dermatology after graduation. This summer, she tentatively plans to work with Craig Kinsley, a Richmond professor of neuroscience, and to research how languages develop.
Contact staff writer Jill Cavaliere at firstname.lastname@example.org
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