Briana Hanafin had never been in a pageant before entering the Miss Arlington 2014 contest last December, but that didn’t stop her from winning the sash, tiara and entrance into this year’s Miss Virginia pageant.
The 24-year-old Arlington native graduated from Yorktown High School and works as an I.T. consultant for Accenture. She tells ARLnow.com that she entered the pageant because all of her time in high school and college — she attended Baylor University in Texas before transferring and graduating from the University of Maryland — was devoted to playing softball.
“It was just on my bucket list of things to do, because all of my weekends in school were going to softball games and tournaments,” Hanafin said. “You have to be 24 or younger to compete, so there’s a time limit.”
She “didn’t do much training” for Miss Arlington, but, since being crowned, that’s completely changed. The Miss Arlington team has taken over her preparation, paying for a personal trainer three times a week and even sending her to Dallas, Texas, to shop for dresses, admitting “I have never done this much shopping in my life.”
Despite being a novice the pageant world, it wouldn’t be a shock if she performs well at the Miss Virginia pageant from June 26-28 in Roanoke. Miss Arlington 2009, Caressa Cameron, was crowned Miss America 2010. Last year’s Miss Arlington, Desiree Williams, won the state pageant, as did 2010 Miss Arlington winner Caitlin Uze.
“I had no idea how big of a reputation [Miss Arlington] had,” she said. “They know how to prepare the girls, which makes me feel good, but this is a lot of pressure. All the previous Miss Arlingtons have been so nice. I even got a Facebook message after I won saying ‘welcome to the best sorority ever.'”
The former shortstop sang Jar of Hearts by Christina Perri for her talent, but she can’t reveal what song she plans to sing for Miss Virginia. She’s listed as the last contestant out of 26 who will be competing in the pageant.
Miss Virginia becomes a spokesperson for the Children’s Miracle Network of hospitals, and Hanafin has been giving talks for months about her social platform, global education, which was inspired by a month she spent in college teaching students in Africa.
It will be difficult for Hanafin to draw on her experience from December’s pageant: she said she was on stage for only a couple of minutes, and it was such a whirlwind that “it’s almost like I blacked out.” Her biggest memory: the surprisingly lengthy process of pinning the tiara to her hair, which took nearly a dozen hair clips. She said she was sure it was going to fall off.
It’s been a long six months between the Miss Arlington and Miss Virginia pageants, but she’s hoping this time around, she remembers the experience. No matter what, she’s enjoying the ride.
“I’ve gotten to be an ambassador for Children’s Miracle Network, and I got to meet the current Miss America, which was kind of unreal. I met her, and I was like ‘I want your job,'” she said. She’s still getting used to the public appearances, however. “I still feel like my crown’s going to fall off.”
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Third time was a charm for 22-year-old Arlington native Caitlin Uze. The Washigton-Lee High School grad and James Madison University senior was crowned Miss Virginia on Saturday, after two prior attempts at the title.
Uze, who was competing as Miss Greater Richmond (local residency is not required to compete in regional pageants), will receive $17,000 in scholarship money and free rent for a year. She will compete for the Miss America crown next year.
Caressa Cameron, the 2009 Miss Arlington winner who went on to win Miss Virginia and then Miss America, was on hand for the pageant, which was held in Roanoke.
Uze is studying social work and family studies at JMU and graduated in the top 20% of her Washington-Lee class, according to a personal website. Her hobbies include Irish dance, photography and reading.
She “showed poise” when asked about the Gulf oil spill during the interview portion of the pageant, according to the Richmond Times Dispatch.
Photo via web.