latisha-hospedales_web.jpgSUNNY ISLES BEACH — Some young ladies have found it difficult to reign as pageant winners and still maintain a high grade-point average.

Not so for former Miss Florida Memorial University Latisha Hospedales, who carries a 3.9 GPA.

Hospedales last week handed over her FMU crown in hopes of replacing it with a Miss International USA title.

The 2009 Miss International USA Pageant will take place on Saturday, April 25 at the Ramada Marco Polo Beach Resort in Sunny Isles Beach.

Expect to see Hospedales on the stage there, representing Trinidad and Tobago.

“For me, it’s a bit of a joy and a little sad, too, because I enjoyed being able to serve and be an advocate for the students here,’’ Hospedales, a senior math major at FMU, told the South Florida Times.

Now, she has a strong desire to give back at the Miss International USA pageant.

Competing alongside Hospedales will be Tatjana Tulloch, daughter of TV host Maxine Tulloch of Comcast’s “The Maxine Tulloch Show’’ on IslandTV Channel 19.

The Spelman College freshman who is majoring in biology and pre-med will represent Jamaica at the pageant. Tulloch said she truly appreciates the uniqueness of this event.

“I’m really looking forward to coming home and using this as an opportunity to further myself and better myself as a person,’’ Tulloch said.

The pageant will include ladies from all different backgrounds and cultures.

The event gives young ladies who otherwise don’t meet the height and weight requirements for national pageants an opportunity to display their beauty, intelligence and talents.

Pageant founder and creator Barbara Howard said she launched this initiative because she saw the gap in the pageant industry that excluded the unique cultural commonalities of young women.

Howard, a South Florida Times columnist, said, “We live in a multi- dimensional and multicultural country. I wanted to create a place where all the cultures can come together.’’

There is a unique addition to this pageant.  Along with the traditional talent, swimsuit/sportswear and evening gown categories, there will be a cultural costume competition that recognizes the different cultures of each individual’s native country.

It is this new category that initially intrigued Hospedales and convinced her to participate.  As an exchange student from Trinidad, she chose to study in the United States because she wanted that multicultural academic experience. Finding a pageant that shared this same goal was incredible for her, she said.

“It was the name of this pageant that caught my attention,’’ Hospedales said gleefully in her West Indian accent. “The fact that she (Howard) had people involved from different backgrounds. That's what I loved.’’

Not only will the experience be encouraging for Hospedales and all the other participants who seek the prestigious title; they will also compete for prizes such as a trip for two anywhere American Airlines flies, as well as cash prizes.

The categories for this year’s pageant are Little Miss International USA, featuring  girls between six and eight years old, Miss Pre-Teen International USA (9-12 years old), Miss Teen International USA (13-17 years old), and Miss International USA (18-25 years old).

Some of the celebrity Judges for this event include Roy Campbell, a certified judge on Tyra Banks’ “America’s Next Top Model” reality show, Judge Karen Mills Francis of “Judge Francis,” and Sylvia Hitchcock, Miss Universe and Miss USA 1967.

Photo by Khary Bruyning. Latisha Hospedales


What: Miss International USA pageant.

Where: Marco Polo Beach Resort 19201 Collins Avenue in Sunny Isles Beach.

When: 7 p.m. Saturday, April 25.

Cost: $20 in advance (there will be no tickets sold at the door).

Contact: For ticket info, email or call 786-506-5429 or 954-549-8602.