First-time contestant is PVHS’s first winner in Miss Senior High pageant
By Amanda Durish Cook
Posted Nov 27, 2013 at 3:33 PM
The 32nd edition of Jacksonville’s Miss Senior High/Miss Northeast Florida pageant crowned its first title winner from Ponte Vedra High School on Nov. 16.
Miss Ponte Vedra, Leila Sabet, along with 23 other Jacksonville-area high school girls, competed in fitness wear, evening gown and talent portions of the Saturday contest hosted by the First Coast Woman’s Club and held at the Thrasher-Horne Center for the Arts in Orange Park.
Sabet, who turns 18 in January, won the Miss Ponte Vedra High School pageant in March and continued on to the Miss Senior High pageant. It was the senior’s first time competing in a pageant.
“It’s definitely very exciting. When they called my name, it didn’t occur to me right away that I was the Miss Ponte Vedra and I should respond,” Sabet said.
“I never knew anything about pageants before Leila competed in the high school pageant,” Leila’s mother, Jody Sabet said. “She was so focused on her studies and didn’t have time to think about competing in a pageant before.”
First Coast Woman’s Club also recognized Leila with the volunteer of the year award during the contest.
Sabet is president of her senior class, holds down a 4.0 grade point average, and is captain of the school dance team; she’s been involved in dance since she was 6 years old. Leila said that years of dance recitals honed her stage presence and prepared her to compete.
“I’m used to being on stage, so I was surprisingly not that nervous,” she said.
Despite a full schedule, she found time to prepare for the pageant. “I really have had to prioritize; I’m busy all the time, but I enjoy everything that I do. I’m the kind of person that, if I’m not busy, I have to find something to do.”
It was Sabet’s jazz dance routine in a circus-themed costume that stood out amid the other singers, guitarists, piano and poetry performances.
“It was a lot of amazing talent on that stage,” Jody Sabet said.
Jody Sabet also said that the pageant offered her daughter a surprising amount of real world preparation and experience. During the interview portion of the contest, she noticed that the girls fielded questions about themselves much like a job interview.
The representatives competing were also required to have a platform, and Sabet chose heart disease, an issue that she holds close.
“The reason I chose heart disease is because my dad was diagnosed a few years ago. Heart disease prevention and heart health are issues that I’m super passionate about,” Leila said.
Sabet runs Heart-to-Heart, a Facebook community page that offers heart disease prevention information and healthy recipes.
In June, winners Sabet and Miss Stanton - first runner-up Alexus Williamson - will travel to the Miss Florida pageant in St. Petersburg. The Miss Florida pageant is affiliated with Miss America.
“She was so excited. It’s all been so fabulous,” Jody Sabet said. “It’s surprising how supportive all the girls were of one another even though they were competing against each other. That’s what Leila’s found. She made friends from girls from other high schools that she never would have met otherwise.”
Leila said she is “honored to be the first Miss Ponte Vedra to be crowned Miss Senior High.”
“I cannot wrap my head around the fact that I will be competing for the title of Miss Florida this summer. It’s incredible how a high school pageant has opened so many doors for me,” she said.
As part of her title, Sabet will make appearances throughout the year, including an upcoming St. Augustine parade, a Nease High School pageant, and a Christmas dance with Miss Sunshine at The Jacksonville Landing.
Amanda Durish Cook: (904) 359-4665