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Gorgeous Beauty Queen.

Monday, September 3, 2007
In my capstone class, we had to do a story on an atypical person. I.e.: someone that you'd look at and pin stereotypes to - and they broke the mold.

I picked my sister-in-law. Here's why:

In a dimly-lit living room, Teresa Gonzalez, a 21-year-old student from the University of South Dakota, sits at a wooden table, hands folded neatly in her lap. She tucker her short, hi-lighted hair behind her ears and flashes a top-of-the-line perma-smile. Reaching for a pair of xylophone sticks on top of the wooden counter, she grasps them in her left hand and then holds the balled-ends to her lips.

"She's beauty and she's grace," says Gonzalez into her pretend microphone. "Seh's Miss USD!"

Her mocking tone and fake expression allude to her past experience in the bright lights of pageant glamour.

"Pageants are like a really bad realationship," says Gonzalez. "You're expected to wake up in the morning with a smile on your face, minty-fresh breat and really obvious eye shadow."

And despite the sarcastic metaphors, Gonzalez still holds a special place in her heart for the life of a beauty queen; albiet one that does not include a never-ending crusade for world peace.

She is not a dim-witted shoe princess, pink poodle in tow. She does not spend an hour every morning carefully masking her dark, brown eyes in blue eye shadow or stiffening her hair to the likeness of stale potato chips with half a can of hair spray. And no, she does not own a jar of Vaseline to glide across her pearly-whites in the early hours of the day.

"Teresa is so down-to-earth," says Erik Shattuck, 22, a United States Marine and friend of Gonzalez. "I always think of pageant girls being ditzy, blondes that have no idea what's going on."

A treasurer for her school's branch of College Republicans, a participant in the Big Buddy, Little Buddy adoption program (much like Big Brothers, Big Sisters) and a double major in public relations and music, Gonzalez seems to do it all, and then some.

"She's the most resourcefully capable person I've ever met," says 22-year-old Oakley Rathbun of his best friend and girlfriend. "I've been doing a lot of great things since I've met her."

Gonzalez is reserved. The third of siz children, she was carted around the early years of her life like a living doll by her twin, older sisters. "I was very overshadowed," says Gonzalez, who finally came out of her shell at the age of 13.

"I fell into the superficial crowd for awhile where the girls were very difficult to trust," says Gonzalez. "Now, large quantities of women make me very shy."

"Teresa really surprises me," says her long-time best friend, Suzy French. "She's such a deep and genuine person, and people miss it because they're so focused on the outside."

Her senior year of high school, Gonzalez was nominated by her St. Thomas Moore classmates to represent their name in the Junior Miss Pageant in Rapid City. A cheerleader, straight-A student and teen-crush of most males at the small, Catholic school, she seemed like a perfect candidate.

"I hated it," says Gonzalez of the week-long event. "I never wanted to go back."

But sophomore year, the itch to sing and perform hooked Gonzalez's interest and two days previous to the Miss Rapid City Pageant, she signed on as a contestant.

"I wasn't prepared at all," said Gonzalez. "It was just after my freshman year and I was feeling a little out of shape. It's hard prance around on stage in a skimpy, little bikini and smile about it."

The drawn-out events and hostile attitudes exemplified backstage in the two contests clued Gonzalez into the pageant's actual meaning; an oversize, counterfeit game.

"Behind the scenes, those women are cutthroat and catty," says Julie Burdge, 34, friend of a former pageant contestant. "No one roots for anyone backstage. It's really back-stabby. The girls with the real talent that were truly wonderful never won."

"The winner is the biggest fake. She's the girl that played the game right," says Gonzalez. "antying that is natural has to be hidden."

Knowing this and needing scholarship money to support herself at school, Gonzalez scrapped her dislike toward the phony competitions and approached the 2002 Miss USD Pageant with a game-plan in mind.

"With the exception of my interview, I payed by the rules," says Gonzalez. "I had to spend three days not being myself."

Gonzalez won first place and spent the year of 2002 representing the University of South Dakota in Vermillion pushing leadership, her chosen platform for the 2002 competition.

"I dressup for school almost every day," says Gonzalez. "I had to ride around in parades and wave with a cheese smile. It was exhausting."

But with the title belonging to Gonzalez, she could do with it whatever she wished for the year of 2002. Gonzalez spent the year singing and performing and leading fundraisers for political campaigns, most notably, for John Thune's (R, SD) senatorial race in the fall of 2002. Gonzalez acted as pole checker, precinct capitain and as an avid supporter for the pro-life decision, teh proud holder of a record for most pro-life turnover calls, which she made during the campaign.

"It was a positive experience that helped me out tremendously with job interviews," recalls Gonazalez. "It's hard to fake who you are when someone's asking you about personal issues. Not it just feels geuniune."

This year, Gonzalez played the part again in a behind-the-scenes spot as producer of the 2003 Miss USD pageant. Tanned, toned and ready, Gonzalez organized the yearly even with big hair, flawless make-up and a glamours dress.

"I do better in positions concerning women where I am the caregiver or nurturer," says Gonzalez. "So naturally, it was much more fun to produce than compete."

January marks another Miss Rapid City competition; one that Gonzalez is seriously considering, although most of her previous experiences have left a bad taste in her mouth.

"It's hard to leave behind, but at least I'll have my [Miss USD] crown forever," says Gonzalez, smiling. "Sometimes when I have ugly days, I put it on and walk around thie house. It always ends up making me feel a lot better."

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I'm Sami Jo From Denver, CO, United States Samantha loves to travel, lose herself in a good book, practice yoga at her favorite local studio, The Yoga Mat, and connect with friends, old and new. Her love of working with creative minds extends into her personal endeavors, as well. She and her husband conduct a project called "Songs For Jake," a music collaboration channel designed with the simple mission of getting great songs to one really big music lover. Through her business, Roger Charlie, Samantha focuses on publicity and management, working closely with authors, musicians, and creatives who find value in a more personal approach through communications.
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