Melissa Marcus, sponsored by Zeta Tau Alpha, is the newly crowned Miss UM. She is now on her way to the Miss Florida pageant.
“I don’t really know why I won, but I did have a very good interview and I had a good talent,” Marcus said. “Every girl in the competition was talented this year.”
Marcus, a Miami native in her second year at UM working toward a doctorate in exercise physiology, was a previous participant of Miss Miami. She is also a former grand national baton-twirling champion. Melissa feels that her experiences with baton-twirling helped her with the talent portion of the competition and in exuding confidence.
“I’m on an all-star baton-twirling team in Sacramento, and we have won the world championships for the past two years,” Marcus said. “It was both the scariest and most exciting experience of my life. I will never be as nervous as I was competing for the world championships.”
Over the years, the pageant has become a staple event during Homecoming week.
The theme of this year’s pageant was “Fire and Ice.”
Students said the pageant was well-organized and had a creative flair.
“Everything was well-planned,” Gabe Santamarina, junior, said. “The stage and decorations show that a lot of time was put into the pageant.”
There were 14 contestants, varying from freshmen to graduate students. Sororities, fraternities, student organizations and graduate programs were among the groups to sponsor the candidates.
The pageant was broken up into the following categories: personal interviews which accounted for 40 percent of the total score, artistic expression [talent] worth 30 percent, lifestyle and fitness [swimsuit] worth 10 percent, presence and poise [eveningwear] worth percent and an overall composite score worth 10 percent.
After a long night of anticipation, the judges cast their vote. The crowning of the new 2003-2004 Miss UM went to Melissa Marcus.
The Homecoming court also included first runner-up Stephanie Martinez, second runner-up Joy Mailloux and Miss Congeniality Katie Brown.
The judges agreed that, although it was a tough choice, what set Marcus apart from the rest of the contestants was her consistency.
According to Judith Coffman, one of the judges, some contestants were weak in certain areas, but Marcus was strong all around.
“The Miss UM pageant was such a great experience,” Marcus said. “I was shocked to win because I was just doing the pageant for fun and there was a possibility of some scholarship money.
“Miss UM was so much fun and I met some people that ordinarily I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to meet.”
The audience offered their comments on the pageant.
“The diversity of the people chosen was a good representation of our Miami community,” Courtne Anderson, senior, said.
“The pageant, in my opinion, was well-organized,” Kelly Russo, junior, said. “The talent portion had a large variety of acts ranging from vocals to acting.”
Shauna Pender, Miss Florida 2003, gave her opinion of the pageant.
“I feel there was an excellent selection in terms of the winner and the court runner-ups,” Pender said. “It was a tough competition, and Melissa will really enjoy herself preparing for the Miss Florida competition.”
The grand prize for the winner of Miss UM was a $1,000 academic scholarship, along with other prizes such as a $100 textbook scholarship to the UM Bookstore.
Marcus is excited with the opportunities that Miss UM will present her.
“My platform for the pageant was preventing obesity in children,” Marcus said. “I would really like to go into the schools and teach children and their parents about proper eating and exercising habits.”
Marcus said she would also like to hold a camp in which she can teach children about portion control and how to exercise and cook in a healthy manner.
“For the boys, the sports would include the usual such as football, baseball, basketball and soccer,” Marcus said. “For the girls, I will have gymnastics, baton-twirling and dancing.”
“I’m definitely looking forward to a great, rewarding year,” Marcus said.
Christie Asencio can be contacted at email@example.com.