By Josh Howard
Since 1952, thousands of women have competed to be crowned as the most beautiful woman in the United States. Miss Louisiana USA 2015 Candice Bennatt hopes to join the ranks of the 62 women who have previously captured the title of Miss USA, when the competition returns to Baton Rouge this week. Thanks to shows like Toddlers & Tiaras, pageant queens have been stereo-typically known to be beautiful, yet vapid and conceited. Bennatt hopes to defy stereotypes and stresses the importance of being more than pretty.
“When people first meet me they have this perception of who I’m going to be thanks to reality TV. I’m not that person they see on Toddlers & Tiaras. I’m 26, and I just finished my first year in law school,” Bennatt said.
She will potentially suspend her second year at Loyola University New Orleans College of Law if she takes the crown over 50 other women at the 2015 Miss USA Pageant on July 12.
Pageants typically attract young girls and women who love to obsess over the contestants’ outfits, physique, and on-stage questions. Most guys, however, attend out of obligation either to their daughters or partners. Men do not have an exact equivalent to Miss USA. Bodybuilding and fitness competitions such as Mr. Olympia and Mr. Universe come the closest to pageants. Bennatt believes while pageants involve a ton of butt glue (yes, it is a thing) and fake eyelashes, men can find enjoyment in the pageant outside of the 10-minute swimsuit portion.
“Overall, [Miss USA] is a competition; and who knows a competition better than a man?” Bennatt said. “When it boils down to what [pageant contestants] have to do, it takes leadership, determination, and consistency. Many can relate to that.”
A native of Kingwood, Texas, Bennatt has been a performer for most of her life. She began to dance competitively at three years old and used the talent to become a Houston Texans cheerleader, and eventually, Miss New Mexico 2012 in the Miss America system.
Bennatt, a self-proclaimed, “turbo nerd” has a bachelor’s degree in biology from Sam Houston State University and according to her friends, a bucket of worthless knowledge. She also has a weird love for the law and all things America.
“I love the legal system and am really proud to be an American. The law has opened my eyes to a lot more of what is happening in the world,” she said.
Outside of a presidential run in 2032, Bennatt hopes to be remembered by more than just charm and good looks; she wants to leave a legacy.
“I want there to be a list of things I’ve done for my community, my family and eventually, as a great mom,” Bennatt said. “Also, I will always participate with the philanthropies here in Louisiana, specifically those concerning domestic violence, in some form because I want to have contributed and not just dictated.
Regardless if Bennatt walks away from the River Center with the crown, her journey as Miss Louisiana USA has allowed her to feel more comfortable in her own skin.
“Miss USA has made me feel more like me,” she said. “I found out who I am.”