By Allie Crane
As a newcomer to pageants, Deandra De Napoli chose to participate in Miss LSU-USA 2014 after her sorority sisters, of Pi Beta Phi, suggested she give it a try.
“I realized that as a senior, this would be my last chance to make the same kind of impact on LSU as it has made on me if I won,” De Napoli said.
That ‘if’ became reality Sunday, as the Texas-born De Napoli took home the crown at the 16th annual Miss LSU-USA Pageant on March 23.
Sponsored by the Delta Zeta Sorority, the Miss LSU-USA pageant is an official preliminary to the Miss Louisiana-USA pageant.
Competing against twenty other outstanding contestants, the 21-year-old public relations major, not only won the Miss LSU-USA 2014 title, but also walked away with Miss Photogenic, Best Swimsuit and Best Evening Gown.
“It was surreal,” said De Napoli. “I was honored and quite frankly shocked to be called up for the top five. Winning was more than I ever could have imagined for my first pageant, but I feel truly blessed.”
The winner of the Miss LSU-USA Pageant will work with local communities and charities, as well as, participate in different university related events throughout the year.
“I am excited to become even more involved on LSU’s campus than I already am and I am excited to see what kind of impact I can make in the Baton Rouge community,” De Napoli said.
With plans to attend law school and earn her M.B.A., De Napoli also aspires to work as a media and entertainment attorney.
The judging process for Miss LSU-USA was based on the Miss Louisiana-USA pageant system. The pageant featured five local judges, and according to Avery McMahon, President of Delta Zeta Sorority, each judge brought a “different set of talents and expertise to the table.”
This year’s pageant represented women from many different organizations, including some who have never competed in a pageant before.
“We are proud to have had such a diverse group of contestants,” McMahon said.
The contestants began preparing for the pageant six weeks in advance with weekly practices and dance rehearsals. Kelsey Megilligan, Public Relations Director for the Miss LSU-USA Pageant, explained how guest speakers and experts were also invited to help the women prepare for the competition and build pageant skills.
The 21 contestants were all judged on an initial interview Sunday morning, as well as their performances later that evening during the swimsuit and evening gown portions of the pageant.
Once the contestants were narrowed to five, their scores were wiped clean and each contestant finished the competition with an on-stage interview question.
The questions asked of the top five varied from the compensation of athletes, college funding, and LSU’s role in the development of character.
Preceding the results, the reigning Miss LSU-USA 2013 Hilary Tuttle gave her final walk as queen. She recalled her experience as being “one of the most defining moments of her life,” and reminded all the contestants to “keep dreaming.”
Throughout its 16 years, Miss LSU-USA has raised over $300,000 for Delta Zeta’s philanthropies.
All of the proceeds of the event go to Delta Zeta’s national and local philanthropic organizations including the Starkey Hearing Foundation, the Painted Turtle Camp, and the Baton Rouge Hearing and Speech Foundation.
Emceed by Jennifer Hale, Fox Sports reporter and Delta Zeta alum, the pageant welcomed a new set of performers including Megan Miller, Alex Smith and The Ballroom Dance Club at LSU.
In October, De Napoli will go on to compete at the Miss Louisiana-USA 2014 Pageant.
“I can’t wait!” she said. “I am a little nervous because Miss LSU-USA was my first pageant so I don’t have the same technical experience, as I am sure the other contestants will have. However, I think I have plenty of time between now and October to prepare.”