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New Miss Virginia has a big crown to fill


Miss Greater Richmond, Caitlin Uze, crowned Miss Virginia 2010, at the Roanoke Performing Arts Center, Saturday, June 26, 2010. (AP/The Roanoke Times, Don Petersen)

Caitlin Uze, Miss Virginia 2010, poses with Caressa Cameron, the current Miss America. (Courtesy of the Miss Virginia Organization)

Talk about hard acts to follow. Miss Virginia 2008 Tara Wheeler set a high bar for beauty queens when she shaved her head to benefit kids fighting cancer and became a national media darling. How to top that? Well, her successor, Miss Virginia 2009 Caressa Cameron, went on to win the Miss America title in January.

Feeling intimidated, Caitlin Uze? The Arlington native claimed the 2010 Virginia crown Saturday night in Roanoke. "I knew I was ready to handle the job," Uze told us Monday. "I was very relaxed."

The James Madison University junior, 22, won the title on her third try: She placed in the top 10 in 2008 and was second runner-up last year. Her talent is Irish dancing; her platform, "building positive self-image," was inspired by how she learned to live with a slight lisp. "It's not a big deal, per se, but people see that I'm not perfect. And I like that, because no one is. The judges liked the fact that I was open about it."

And they liked her body: Uze won the swimsuit title all three years.

To celebrate the pageant's 75th anniversary, officials brought back former winners, including Cameron, who met with all 30 contestants and told them that being a beauty queen is a tough job: The appearances and constant traveling can be overwhelming and difficult, but worth it. Wheeler, a pal since they competed together three years ago, told Uze to "use the year to make a difference," so she plans to make a documentary with students about self-esteem.

Uze, who won $17,000 with the rhinestone crown, will compete in the 2011 Miss America pageant in Las Vegas alongside Miss Maryland Lindsay Staniszewski, who was also crowned Saturday night, and Miss D.C. Stephanie Williams, who won her title a week ago. (Sidelined on cable for the past few years, the pageant will be broadcast live on ABC in January.)

Will being from the Old Dominion give her an edge? "I don't really think it will make a difference, because every year the judges really look at an individual, not where she's from," Uze said. "I really think they judge who's the best girl for the job."

By The Reliable Source  |  June 29, 2010; 1:05 AM ET
 
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