Outgoing Miss UF honored the duty she's had to the community


UF sophomore Rachel Hart, right, with Miss UF 2012 Ashlyn Robinson at the 2013 Miss UF Pageant. Hart will relinquish her crown as Miss UF 2013 on Feb. 24 at the 2014 pageant.

Submitted photo
Published: Wednesday, February 5, 2014 at 3:05 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, February 5, 2014 at 3:05 p.m.

The approach of the 2014 Miss University of Florida Pageant is bittersweet for Rachel Hart.

Winner of the 2013 pageant as a freshman, Hart, now a sophomore, has dedicated the last year to serving the community and making Miss UF more of a human presence in the eyes of the student body. But at 7 p.m. on Feb. 24 at the Phillips Center, Hart's title will be passed on to another young woman.

"Being able to represent my school and the Gator Nation has been like nothing else," she said. "I'm really excited for the next girl because I know how special it is, but it's just a little bittersweet having to let that part of me go for now."

Hart will always be Miss UF 2013, she said. Her time wearing the crown and sash has been successful in her eyes, and she wishes the best for her successor.

Alison Hassell, the director of the pageant and a junior at UF, said 20 women from diverse backgrounds will compete for the title this year. The winner will advance to the Miss Florida Pageant in June to compete for a chance to win the Miss America crown in January.

As an official Miss America Organization event, the pageant will consist of five parts: a private interview worth 25 percent, an on-stage question worth 5 percent, a talent competition worth 35 percent, an evening wear portion worth 20 percent, and a lifestyle and fitness swimsuit portion worth 15 percent, according to the Florida Blue Key Divisions webpage for Miss UF.

Tickets will be available at the door at the Phillips Center for $15.

Hassell said every woman competing this year has shown great leadership and spirit. They are all beautiful, Hassell said, and they should all recognize this opportunity to make a difference.

"Miss UF is someone that represents herself well but also has such a heart to give back and make an impact on a campus that has been so vital to her development," she said.

Contestants must be full-time students at UF and had to be sponsored by an organization, local business or their parents.

Among this year's hopefuls, Abigail Remsburg is looking to follow in Hart's footsteps. Remsburg is entering the competition as a freshman, too, and knowing Hart won at her age has made her feel more confident about her own chances.

"I know I've only been here for a year," Remsburg said, "but I really feel like I have so much more time to be here to represent UF very well."

Some contestants, like Remsburg, have pageant experience from high school and middle school. Others, however, have their own reasons for participating beyond the chance at the crown.

Tori Taravella, a senior, said the pageant was on her bucket list. For her, it's a chance to wear a pretty dress and have fun while also advocating for clean waterways, which is the philanthropic platform she is representing at the pageant.

Yet she understands the weight the Miss UF title can carry.

"You get to make a difference, and it's noticed," she said. "People notice and try to follow you in whatever you do to have a greater impact."

Hart said Miss UF is a serious position, and she hopes the next woman is ready to embrace the responsibility of a "one-year commitment to service."

"Pageants are about so much more than winning a crown," she said. "They're about what you can do in the community and the impact you can have."

Reader comments posted to this article may be published in our print edition. All rights reserved. This copyrighted material may not be re-published without permission. Links are encouraged.

▲ Return to Top