Yeah, yeah, we all want world peace. Blah, blah, blah. But pageant contestants are much more dimensional than the baton-twirling, politically correct answer-giving beauties we see on stage. On Wednesday began the preliminary rounds of Denim and Diamonds: The 73rd annual Miss Florida Pageant at Mahaffey Theater in St. Petersburg. Forty-five contestants ages 17 to 24, all title-holders from city competitions, will compete for the rhinestone crown and the honor of representing Florida in January at the Miss America pageant in Las Vegas. Miss Florida is a pro bono gig, but there are opportunities for paid appearances during the winner's yearlong reign. Tbt* stopped by rehearsals to catch up with three local contestants.
— Dalia Colón firstname.lastname@example.org
Lauren Dymtrow, 23, Miss St. Petersburg
Job: Personal trainer
Dream job: Personal trainer. "I'm living it."
Guilty pleasure: Biscuits
Public speaking pointer: Practice.
Swimsuit tip: "Just love the way you look. If you're nit-picking at yourself and you're worried about what you're going to look like, it shows."
Favorite TV show: Hidden Potential on HGTV
Any tats?: A star on her wrist
On-stage mishap: Occasionally trips, but forges ahead.
Denim or diamonds?: Diamonds. "I'm named after Tiffany and Co. That's my middle name. ... I take after my mom. We like anything that sparkles."
Kaitlin Monte, 19, Miss Tampa
Job: Animal handler and singer at Busch Gardens
Dream job: Image consultant
Guilty pleasure: Chocolate Chocolate Chocolate from Bern's dessert room
Public speaking pointer: Smile. "If you can warm the crowd, everything else melts away."
Swimsuit tip: To boost your confidence, turn on your favorite song and get in front of a mirror. "Put on some stilettos. Rock it."
Favorite TV show: America's Best Dance Crew on MTV
Any tats?: Nope. "I'm so afraid of that, mostly because I think my mother would disown me."
On-stage mishap: When it was time for her close-up at Miss Teen New York USA, Monte cheesed for the cameras and headed off stage ... the wrong way. She had to walk back out across the stage. Needless to say, she didn't win.
Denim or diamonds?: Diamonds. "I actually don't own any jeans."
Allyson Tolbert, 23, Miss Largo
Job: Teaches dance and just wrapped 16-month national tour of The Producers
Dream job: Broadway performer
Guilty pleasure: Cold Stone Creamery's Cake Batter ice cream with rainbow sprinkles and chocolate chips
Public speaking pointer: Slow down and imagine you're talking to only one or two people.
Swimsuit tip: Exercise and enjoy treats in moderation. "If there's a chocolate cake in front of me and something happens to me tomorrow, at least I'll know I ate that chocolate cake."
Favorite TV shows: Ugly Betty on ABC and Meerkat Manor on Animal Planet. "It's a soap opera of meerkats. Please watch it. It'll change your life."
Any tats?: A ladybug on her hip
On-stage mishap: Despite having two charley horses during the 2006 Miss Largo evening-wear competition, Tolbert held onto her escort's arm, smiled and got through it. In heels.
Denim or diamonds?: Diamonds. "If you do something special, you should reward yourself."