Beauty Queen legacies at UNT

Advancing as two of the top 10 finalists in the 2010 Miss America Pageant, UNT students Kristen Blair, Miss Texas, and Nicole Miner, Miss New Mexico, are the most recent additions to North Texas’ long history of talented and beautiful contestants. This year’s pageant, which took place in January in Las Vegas, marked the 89th year of the Miss America Organization, the world’s largest provider of scholarship assistance for young women. Last year, more than $45 million in cash and scholarship assistance was made available.

  • Kristen Blair, Miss Texas 2009, a junior majoring in vocal performance, hopes to pursue a career in the performing arts, teaching children’s music and theater. She was a soloist on the College of Music’s 2008 Czech Republic Tour. She is a member of the National Scholars Honor Society and Tau Sigma Academic Honors Society. Her platform issue is “Celebrating YOUth: Discovering Passions and Living Out Dreams.” Blair placed 10th in the 2010 Miss America Pageant.
  • Nicole Miner, Miss New Mexico 2009, a senior music education major, will graduate from UNT next fall. In addition to providing community service to cities, towns and villages in New Mexico, she spends time supporting the organization that is part of her platform, “Saving Lives: Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.” Miner, whose mother was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2003, is a run mentor for the Leukemia/Lymphoma Team in Training’s winter season programs and has participated in three half marathons and a full marathon within the program. She placed seventh in the 2010 Miss America Pageant.

Here are a few of North Texas’ previous Miss Americas and other pageant winners over the past four decades who have continued to make names for themselves beyond lives filled with crowns, gowns and sashes:

  • Armaiti “Arma” Shahidi-Fitzgerald (’06), Mrs. International 2009, is the former Mrs. Middle East. She graduated with a bachelor of fine arts in communication design, earning the “Most Outstanding Design Student” award from UNT. After graduating, the artist with more than 30 international exhibitions formed Armaiti Design Studio, a boutique graphic design and photography studio in Plano. Founder of the Fight Oral Cancer Foundation, she has spent her reign as Mrs. International 2009 promoting awareness of oral cancer. Fitzgerald, born in Iran, moved to the United States 10 years ago.
  • Lonice Bell (’08), Miss Dallas 2009, received her bachelor’s degree in applied arts and sciences. While studying at UNT, Bell modeled with MOSE’ (Models of Style Exposed). She has been featured in several hip-hop magazines around the world and appeared in the independent film Sweet Justice and Chyna Robinson’s stage play When Love Is Not Enough.
  • Shilah Phillips, Miss Texas 2006, now a senior jazz studies major, was the first runner-up in the 2007 Miss America pageant and the first African American to hold the Miss Texas title. She entered her first pageant with a goal to earn enough scholarship money to attend UNT’s prestigious College of Music. She has a strong background in music, having attended the Denver School of Performing Arts and Howard University in Washington, D.C., where she received educational honors in addition to the most outstanding vocalist award. She later seized a recording opportunity in Los Angeles and made it to Hollywood as a contestant on the third season of American Idol
  • Juliette Rizzo ('94 M.J.), Miss Wheelchair America 2005, received her master of journalism degree in public relations with a rehabilitation studies minor. The Miss Wheelchair America competition is based on advocacy, achievement, communication and presentation to select the most accomplished and articulate spokeswoman for people with disabilities. Through her platform, Rizzo shared her experiences with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, scleroderma and fibromyalgia. As a freelance journalist, she covered health care reform under the Clinton administration and was published in Allied Healthweek, Nurseweek and Occupational ADVANCE magazines. She works as a peer counselor, mentoring and assisting young adults with employment strategies, transition issues and self-advocacy techniques.
  • Shirley Cothran Barret (’73, ’74 M.Ed.), Miss America 1975, was a Yucca beauty in 1972. She is an author and professional speaker. Barret, a native of Denton, earned a doctoral degree in education from Texas Woman’s University and is a contributing author to various publications, as well as a creative writer. She is a member of the National Speakers Association and has served on several boards such as MADD, Texas Speedway Children’s Charity and her local school board. She has appeared on telecasts such as Good Morning, America; The Today Show; and numerous other talk shows.
  • Phyllis George, Miss America 1971, is a Distinguished UNT Alumna. The entrepreneur and author also is a native of Denton and attended North Texas from 1967 to 1970, until she was crowned Miss America. At North Texas, she was a Yucca beauty in 1970 and was active in Zeta Tau Alpha sorority and Angel Flight, the women’s auxiliary of Air Force ROTC. She was the first woman sportscaster on network television, working for 10 seasons with CBS’ NFL Today, and was co-anchor of the CBS Morning News in 1985. 

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