anastagia-pierre_web.jpgFourteen years ago, while witnessing the preparation for a pageant at the Swap Shop flea market in what is now Lauderhill, Nichole Dagle thought to herself that pageantry would be a good way to break her daughter out of her shyness.

She also saw it as a way for her daughter, Anastagia Pierre, to dress up and have a great time while gaining self-confidence.

So, on a whim, she decided to buy a dress. She entered her five-year-old daughter in the Baby Boomers pageant. After the ceremonies, the judges made their decision:  The young Anastagia didn’t win, but she did receive a participation trophy as a consolation prize that was awarded to all contestants.

Seven years later, when Anastagia turned 12, Dagle entered her into the city of Tamarac’s preliminary pageant for the Junior Orange Bowl Queen, which celebrates youth for girls 12 to 13. The young ladies were judged on poise, personality and presentation. Anastagia won the preliminaries, and later won the pageant.

Soon after that, she developed a winning streak, including her victory at the Miss Florida Teen USA pageant in 2004 and the Miss Teen Dream Girl America pageant in 2006.

All of those accomplishments were mere preparation for her biggest win to date: capturing the title of Miss Florida USA.

After a short hiatus from the pageant world, Pierre, in front of an audience of seven million TV viewers worldwide, on July 12 beat out 48 other contestants for the title at Broward College's Bailey Concert Hall in Davie. She will represent the state in the Miss USA pageant in April 2009.

The title carries with it a cash and prize package valued in excess of $30,000, including the all-expense paid trip to the pageant in 2009.

Pierre represents the diversity in the cultural melting pot of South Florida: Her maternal grandparents are Haitian, her mother was born in the Bahamas, and her biological father is from the Dominican Republic.

She became the second woman ever to have won Miss Florida Teen USA and Miss Florida USA. Remarkably, she won the Miss Florida USA title on her first attempt, while most winners before her have entered up to four or five times.

“I think it’s an honor and very much a privilege,’’ Pierre said. “I feel like if you work hard at it you’ll get it; I just didn’t know that it would happen so fast and after just one try.”

Alexandra Watkins, who represented Lakeland as the first runner-up in the Miss Florida USA pageant, said, “I think that [Pierre] was a great choice. Being the runner-up, I was there with her up to her crowning moment, and I saw that she was a great girl as I was involved in activities with her and I got to know her well. I think she has a great head on her shoulders.”

Though Pierre has a lot to celebrate, she considers herself a typical 19-year-old. The Plantation teen loves college life, likes going out and having a good time with her friends, has a strong interest in photography, and often plays around with pictures using Adobe Photoshop.

She aspires to be a physician's assistant and is currently enrolled at Nova Southeastern University’s Davie campus, using a $40,000 scholarship she got from winning Miss Teen Florida USA. She is pursuing a major in Biology as she gets ready to begin her sophomore year next semester.

She is a varsity cheerleader for the NSU Sharks, a member of the Perpetual Motion Dance Company, a member of the NSU Student Government Association and represents NSU when she attends conferences for the Young America’s Foundation, a conservative group that promotes political awareness among young people. 

C.A. Tolchinsky, cheerleading coach for the NSU Sharks, said the entire cheer team was ecstatic to see Pierre win.

“We cried when she won. We were all so happy for her and proud of her,” Tolchinsky said. “Anastagia is an extremely hard-working cheerleader. Because of her extensive background in dance and athletics, her confidence shines when performing in front of a crowd. Her determination and talent adds depth to the NSU cheerleading team.”

Aside from winning the crown, the sash and the bragging rights of being named a beauty queen, Dagle says there are many other benefits that her daughter enjoys for being involved in pageantry. That’s why, she said, she got Pierre involved in the first place.

“There are just so many benefits to be had,’’ Dagle said. “Yeah, they’re beauty pageants, but there are some great things that can come out of it, and sometimes when you’re just an average person in life, you can use these things as a springboard for many other things. For example, it’s helping to fund Anastagia through college.”
Pierre agreed.

“I think pageants are a little downplayed, but they really do help you to become a more developed person,’’ Pierre said. “I think when people think of pageants, they think of catty girls and putting on tons of makeup, but it’s a lot more than that. They really teach you how to be more refined, and they teach you social skills. It involves public speaking, and helps you with your self-confidence, and even other things like grooming and making yourself presentable. I think pageants help you in all aspects of life, and they prepare you for the real world.”

Throughout her pageant career, Pierre has collected numerous prizes and had many post-pageant gigs, such as modeling and paid appearances.

One of Pierre’s official appearances since winning the Miss Florida USA title was to be a judge of the Miss Seminole Princess
pageant. The Seminole Tribe funded her stay at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino near Hollywood for four days. She had the opportunity to visit the Big Cypress Indian Reservation, also.

Pierre will travel to the Bahamas to support her sister queen in the Miss Teen USA pageant, and will host the Miss Lakeland preliminaries next year.

She acknowledges that holding the title coveted by many Florida beauties comes with responsibilities, including the Miss USA competition and appearances across the state.

“I can handle the responsibilities and I am 100 percent ready to take it and do whatever needs to be done,” she said.

This is Pierre’s first Miss title, one she says is very different from all the Teen titles she’s gained.

“The Miss Florida Teen pageant is about fun and being a teenager and being a role model to other teens,’’ she said. “The Miss Florida is on a different level, and while it’s still about having a good time and being a role model, it’s a job. You’re really representing your entire state, from the little kids to the elderly, and you have to treat it and your title with respect.’’

When asked what her outlook on the pageant world is, Pierre said, “Right now, I think the pageant world is going in a great place. Girls are really showing their personality and expressing themselves.”

Pierre has a message for all the young girls out there thinking about a career in pageantry.

“Go for it,’’ she said. “You never know what can amount out of it. It’s a great experience: you learn a lot about other people and yourself, and it makes you branch out a bit.”

Photo by Elgin Jones/SFT Staff. Anastagia Pierre