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Flying high, then back to the nest

Alex Dumrauf placed as third runnerup in the annual Hooters International Swimsuit Pageant June 25.

LUIS SANTANA | Times

Alex Dumrauf placed as third runnerup in the annual Hooters International Swimsuit Pageant June 25.

TAMPA — Growing up, Alex Dumrauf was a tomboy, quiet and reserved. She loved anything to do with a ball, from tennis to soccer and basketball.

She never imagined becoming a beauty queen.

All that changed when she got a job at Hooters serving wings and beer. Nearly four years later, she earned a top spot in the 15th annual Hooters International Swimsuit Pageant.

Dumrauf won third runnerup in the contest featuring 100 Hooters girls from around the globe. The pageant, held June 25 in Miami, will be televised at 9 p.m. today and again 12:30 a.m. Monday on Spike TV.

"I've never really done anything like that before," she said. "I just put on my Hooters smile and pretended there wasn't anyone there."

The 24-year-old who lives in South Tampa was the only contestant from the bay area, where Hooters got its start in Clearwater. She was the first local Hooters girl since Natalie Pandorf in 2007 to place in the top five.

Dumrauf came to Florida from Pittsburgh after high school. She was working retail and taking classes at St. Petersburg College but didn't know what she wanted to do.

On a whim, she applied at Hooters and got a job at the Tyrone Square Mall location. She remembers worrying whether she'd survive working with so many women.

"At first, I was little intimidated, but all the girls are now my best friends," she said. She became accustomed to the uniform: orange shorts, tank top, pantyhose and white scrunch socks.

A few months ago, after she moved to Tampa from St. Petersburg, Dumrauf transferred to the Hillsborough Avenue restaurant. She works the lunch shift most weekdays. The fourth-place finish has given her mini-celebrity status. Her pageant picture hangs by the door and a few customers have requested her section.

But it hasn't necessarily translated into more tips or less work. She still cleans tables and does prep work.

Hooters higher-ups describe her as hardworking, humble and fun to be around. Her pretty looks? Well, that's a given.

"Of all the girls I've worked with, she's one of the best," said Leah Ramker, marketing director for Tampa Bay Hooters stores. "We knew she would do well."

Pageant contestants were picked by Hooters officials in each market and typically have appeared in the swimsuit calendar and other promotional materials. Dumrauf has been in the past three calendars, on billboards and in table-tent menus.

Dumrauf eats healthy, except for the occasional buffalo shrimp with ranch dressing, her favorite menu item. She inline skates to stay in shape, but worked out every day for three weeks to prepare for the pageant. Believe it or not, she loves to drink beer.

As a finalist, she won $8,000, to go to savings. She will get to travel with Hooters, attending store openings, charity events and commercial shoots.

Her customers say she is well deserving of the honor.

"She's got it all going on," said Tim Swadener of Tampa, who goes to the restaurant several times a week. "She's obviously eye candy, but she's got a kind soul."

Not to mention, she's a great server.

Flying high, then back to the nest 07/21/11 [Last modified: Friday, July 22, 2011 12:15am]
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