Titleholder Interview: Rachel Danese

Meet Rachel!  This 22 year old college student has a love for crafts, pageants, and everything retro!  Rachel and I met when we competed at the 2015 Miss Florida Forestry Pageant.  I sat down with her to chat about her life in the pageant world since the competition.

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(Rachel modeling a retro outfit inspired by Cinderella. Photo Credit: Facebook)

Hometown: Jacksonville, Florida
School: Florida State College at Jacksonville
Major: Hospitality

Tell me about yourself? Interests, Hobbies, etc.
“Well, I am 22 years old. I obviously love pageants. I am a singer and actress. My hobbies include pageants, doing all things arts and crafts including hair bow making, rhinestoning, greeting card making, etc. Dressing in retro clothing is also a huge interest of mine.”

How did you get involved in pageants?
“I got involved in pageants because I was never able to do my high school pageant and always regretted it. I found a local pageant that was open to plus women and my friend, Kelli Wilson, encouraged me to do it. There was no turning back.

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(Rachel’s pitbull modeling her 2016 Miss Jacksonville Plus America crown. Photo Credit: Instagram)

Describe your experience as Miss Florida Plus America 2016 and at the Miss Plus America National Pageant?
“My experience with Miss Plus America was life-changing. The pageant week experience itself was stressful but I learned a lot. There were so many nice girls and I made some lifetime friends.”

Why have you decided to compete at nationals again?
“I have decided to compete at nationals again. I couldn’t give it my all when I competed the first time. I was extremely sick. I had anemia and my PCOS was causing a lot of issues at that point. I can’t wait to go back and perform to my truest ability.”

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(Rachel placed in the Top 6 at the 2016 Miss Plus America Pageant.  She was 5th-runner-up. Photo Credit: Miss Plus America Facebook Page)

What was the process of being crowned Miss Sunshine State Plus America while simultaneously giving up your title as Miss Florida Plus America 2016?
“Becoming Miss Sunshine State was a super smooth process. While I was still Miss Florida, I decided I wanted to compete at nationals again and I knew I needed a different title. We picked Miss Sunshine State and I kept my decision quiet up until my final walk. Right after they crowned the new Miss Florida, they announced my choice to compete again. My new crown and sash was waiting for me!”

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(Rachel posing in her hotel room after being crowned Miss Sunshine State 2017. Photo Credit: Facebook)

Do you have a platform? If so, what is it and why did you choose it?
“My platform is “Beauty is not Flawless.” It represents women with PCOS and teaches them that they can overcome anything life throws their way. I chose this because I have PCOS.”

While helping with optionals at Miss Florida Plus America, you posted a photo in a two-piece gown with an inspiring message about body image. How did it feel wearing that gown? What was the response?
“While wearing my two piece gown, I felt so powerful. I feel free knowing I can just wear what I want without caring about opinions. The response was mixed. Some felt it was in poor taste and others thought I rocked it. At the end of the day, the only opinion that matters is your own.”

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(Rachel modeling her two-piece gown before the Miss Florida Plus America 2017 Optionals Competition. Photo Credit: Facebook)

What advice do you have for other plus-sized women who want to compete or are competing in pageants?
“My advice is go for it!! Plus pageants have inspired me to be an inspiration for others. Pageants have helped me gain the confidence in every aspect of my life.”

If you had to pick one favorite moment throughout your time in pageants, what would it be and why?
“My favorite moment was the face I made when I won Miss Florida. It was embarrassing and ugly and terrible but so beautiful at the same time. I’ll never forget that.”

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