Student to participate in pageant

If someone would have told Audrey Cuellar her freshman year that three years later she would be enrolled in a beauty pageant, her response would have been, “No way.”

But now, Cuellar, a third year student at the University, has less than 11 months to prepare for the Ms. Belleza Latina Beauty Pageant.

The pageant, founded in 2000 by President Maria Torres, strives to create Hispanic role models as well as allowing Hispanic women to celebrate their culture, accomplishments and beauty.

The pageant is open to women ages 19-29 with a minimum of 25 percent Hispanic descent.

“This pageant is based on the requirements of a true Latina,” Torres said. “It does not take height or weight into consideration — in our culture we come in a variety of shapes and sizes.” Cuellar is enthusiastic about being a part of a pageant that celebrates Hispanic culture.

“This pageant system is different,” she said. “It gives you a voice that a lot of times you don’t have. There are so many opportunities in the pageant that won’t compromise who I am. It is very straightforward —very real.”

Cuellar was chosen out of 13 applicants to act as Ohio’s delegate in the competition. The pageant is scheduled for August of 2004 and is set to take place in Puerto Rico.

Cuellar found information on the pageant online while investigating ways to connect herself to her culture.

“I’ve never been involved in anything that supports my culture,” she said. “I came across the pageant online and thought, ‘this could be something I would want to involve myself in.'”

In July 2003, Cuellar sent in two photographs of herself and an application describing her ambitions, charity work and reasons she would make a good candidate for the pageant. Cuellar also had a phone interview with Torres.

A few weks later, Cuellar found out she was chosen as Ohio’s delegate.

“When you buy a lottery ticket, you don’t think you’re going to win,” Cuellar said. “I was reluctant. I didn’t know if I was the best person for the position – but then I remembered why I applied in the first place.”

Cuellar said her mother, father and identical twin sister, Abbey, who all reside in Weslaco, Texas, have been very supportive about her involvement in the pageant.

“We are very excited and happy for her,” said Efrain Cuellar, Audrey’s father. “Deep in her heart she wanted to do something like this.”

Cuellar, who said she has never liked drawing attention to herself, must now prepare for her first beauty pageant by tending to a ‘to-do’ list that includes finding corporate sponsors, perfecting her pageant platform and brushing up on interviewing skills.

Cuellar must pay a $900 national entrance fee for the pageant. This amount does not include her travel expenses and wardrobe. Cuellar has received some donations from friends and plans to soon introduce herself to local businesses in hopes of securing donations and sponsorships. Cuellar also wants to use her status as a state delegate to help local businesses and charities.

“I want to make myself available if there is anything I can do to help them,” she said.

Cuellar, who is majoring in education with a focus in Spanish, must also work on her platform of promoting multicultural awareness and literacy awareness. She hopes to begin a ‘story time’ program at local libraries and hospitals that will her allow her an opportunity to share stories by Hispanic authors with children. Shopping is also on Cuellar’s agenda.

Thirty percent of the pageant is based on an evening gown portion of the competition, another 30 percent is based on fashion-wear and 40 percent is based on an interview by a panel of five judges. “The interview questions range from what our name is to why we think we should win,” Cuellar said. “I have five minutes to amaze these judges.”

If Cuellar wins the title of Ms. Belleza Latina she will receive a prize package that includes not only a crown, sash and video of the event but also prizes from sponsors and a year to promote her platform.

“I would definitely use that status to continue to promote literacy,” Cuellar said. “I would love to go on a mini-tour throughout Ohio and encourage kids about college. I would use my status to serve as a mentor, guide and inspiration.”

Editor’s Note: If you are interested in donating to Cuellar, E-mail [email protected]