Seminole Spotlight: Miss Tallahassee's Leila Sabet on pageantry and purpose
EMMA MOODY | STAFF WRITER
1:29 p.m. EDT Apr. 8, 2018
On Friday, I had the chance to sit down with Florida State’s very own Leila Sabet. Sabet is a graduating senior at Florida State wrapping up her degree in psychology with a certificate in advanced leadership studies. Sabet is also involved in campus groups such as Garnet and Gold Key Honor Society and the Panhellenic sorority Alpha Delta Pi, where she served on the executive board and as president. However, the reason for our meeting was not to detail her many impressive on-campus accomplishments, but one of her more recent feats.
On Saturday, March 24th, 2018, Sabet was crowned Miss Tallahassee in the Miss Tallahassee pageant held on FAMU’s campus. For Sabet, this is step one in her journey to becoming Miss Florida and, fingers crossed, Miss America. Sabet and her director, former Miss FAMU, Dr. Denise Barrett agreed to sit down with me to tell me a little bit more about the incredibly complex world of pageantry which is much more prevalent on our campus than you might think.
To be honest, before this meeting, I had a very surface level understanding of pageantry. One that came from one too many weekends spent binge watching TLC’s Toddlers & Tiaras. However, it was comforting to hear Sabet say that she actually had the same surface level misconceptions about pageantry before she started competing. How did Sabet get bit by the pageant bug? A high school dare.
“My junior year of high school we had a pageant and I was on the dance team. I had a good relationship with administration at my school, and my friends were like I dare you to do it and I said ‘Why? I’m not a pageant girl.’ I had this perception of pageantry that was inaccurate.”
But after accepting the dare and winning the pageant, Sabet realized pageantry actually reaped benefits far beyond a crown and sash. Pageantry gave Sabet a bigger voice and greater presence in her community. A year before competing in this high school pageant, Sabet’s father was diagnosed with advanced heart disease. It was a trying time for her family and especially scary for her and her sister as they watched their father get seven angioplasty stints to unblock five of his major arteries.
“My sister and I didn't take it very well because, you know, we almost lost our father. I kind of dropped off the face of the Earth for a little bit until my friends helped me get my feet back on the ground. That’s when I started competing [in pageants]. Yes, it was a dare, but I knew that I could have that platform to speak about heart disease. I didn't know when I'd be ready to, but once I became Miss Ponte Vedra High School, I started speaking to young students about how to be healthy and live an active lifestyle.”
With this newfound passion for pageantry and a platform near and dear to her heart, Sabet put in hours of work towards fine-tuning her image both physically and mentally. Competing on the Miss America circuit means participants must be aware of the four points of the crown: scholarship, service, style and success. It is these four points that propel contestants to continue to better themselves and contribute to the advancement of each of these areas.
In terms of scholarship, the Miss America organization awards millions of dollars each year in scholarships to its participants. For women like Sabet, this is of huge importance as her undergraduate and possible graduate studies have come out of her pocket. Furthermore, the organization has raised over $16 million for their charity of choice, Children’s Miracle Network, and each participant then focuses on their own platform, which usually incorporates the point of service.
For Sabet, that personal platform is heart disease awareness and prevention through which she has spent time speaking to young students about living a healthy lifestyle. We then have the style point, which Sabet assures is the most fun. Contestants are expected to stay up to date on the latest fashion trends in order to better relate to their audience. Finally, it is success that ties it all together. Dr. Barrett explained why these four characteristics are so important for contestants to embody,
“What I love is you can have it all. You can be beautiful, you can be smart, you can be intelligent, you can be articulate, and, as Leila said, all of those four things folded in together help create a successful woman. And that’s our goal, helping women achieve their goals in life and helping others achieve their goals in society.”
Now, as Miss Tallahassee, Sabet’s commitment to succeeding on the pageant circuit goes far beyond herself. She’s representing the entire Tallahassee community as she continues on to becoming Miss Florida with high hopes that the title turns into Miss America.
“The amount of support I’ve gotten already is incredible. I feel so loved, it's insane, I've never received this much support as a titleholder. But I think going forward just having those opportunities to be a part of the community, speaking to people, things like this honestly; It's all preparing me for the job of Miss Florida. Getting to speak about my journey and my mission, my vision, my goals.”
If you are looking to get into the wide world of pageantry, Dr. Barrett has this advice for you,
“Step out on faith and go for it. As Leila said, you'd be surprised how things come together. We're fortunate to live in a day and age where everything is available to you. We have a number of resources. Reach out to people, ask for advice, look online, the sky’s the limit… Don't let fear hold you back. You can always find a reason not to do something; it's a matter of putting one foot in front of the next and going for your dream.”
Many Florida State University student organizations host their own pageants on campus including various Greek life sororities and fraternities as well as different cultural clubs. Florida State also has a long line of successful titleholders such as Miss Florida 2017, Sara Zengand third runner up at the Miss America pageant in 2014, Victoria Cowen.
We hope Sabet will join this list of successors as she continues on. She will compete in the Miss Florida preliminary competition during the last week of June. The new Miss Florida will be crowned on Finals Night, June 30th, 2018. The dates for the Miss America pageant have yet to be announced, but we can expect them to occur sometime in September. We wish Leila Sabet the best of luck as she continues on!