Amber Jurgensen | Staff Writer
It may be hard to imagine that a skateboarding, self-described “tomboy” from a small Florida town became a dazzling beauty queen with several equally dazzling crowns. But hometown starlet Jaclyn “Jackie” Raulerson has done just that.
Last week, Raulerson competed in the Miss Florida USA pageant in Hollywood. She walked the stage as Miss Central Florida, along with 72 other young women at Broward Community College. Raulerson placed in the top five as third-runner up.
“I’m very happy with my performance and would not have changed a single thing,” Raulerson says.
She managed to squeeze in a whirlwind phone interview between her preparations for the pageant, which included rehearsals, dinners with sponsors and contestant parties that included dancing and hula-hoop races. All week, she was up at 6 a.m. and didn’t finally make it to bed until 11 p.m. each night, changing clothes about four times a day for different events.
Raulerson first got into pageants when she was 13. She competed with the Miss Florida Organization in the Miss Florida Teen USA pageant.
“I’ve always loved performing,” Raulerson says. “I figured it was another way to make some friends and be on stage.”
Raulerson likely learned her love for the spotlight from her family. Her father,Dan Raulerson, is a Plant City commissioner and former mayor and now is campaigning for the Florida House of Representatives. Her mother, Shirley, also was a pageant girl. Both her parents and brother, Alek, were present in Hollywood last week to see Raulerson onstage.
“He’s like a cheerleader,” Raulerson says of her father, laughing. “He loves it. It’s like a football game for him.”
At first, Dan Raulerson wasn’t sure how he felt about pageants, but now he enjoys them.
“It’s actually been a great ride,” he says. “It’s been really rewarding to see her on this journey.”
“It’s a hobby for the whole family,” Raulerson says.
Like her daughter, Shirley Raulerson started pageants when she was a teenager. Shirley felt pageants were a good fit for her because of her height.
She was a finalist in the Miss Florida pageant in 1980.
Despite Shirley’s experience, the Raulersons did not push their daughter into the pageant world.
“It surprised us,” Shirley Raulerson says about Raulerson’s interest in pageants. “It was a shocker. She would rip anything frilly off when she was little, like a bow or ribbon. She wasn’t a child who could wear stockings.”
Raulerson grew up playing sports and climbing trees. She even qualified for the Junior Olympics in swimming in fourth grade. But now, pageants take up a lot of her time.
“She’s been bitten by the pageant bug,” her mother says.
A NATURAL ON STAGE
Raulerson’s favorite part of pageants is the interview.
“They look beyond you appearance and I take pride in that,” the Durant High School alumni says.
Her mother agrees.
“The one stage question is probably my favorite,” her mother says. “She’s a good speaker, quick on her feet.”
In addition to answering interview questions on the stage, Raulerson has used her public-speaking talents at speaking engagements at schools throughout the state.
“I saw her speak to 1,500 middle-schoolers, and you could hear a pin drop,” her father says.
Raulerson currently attends the University of Florida and is majoring in telecommunications. She hopes to be a news anchor for a major news network. Her professional role models include Lisa Ling, Megyn Kelly and Oprah Winfrey.
In addition to being a finalist in last week’s Miss Florida USA Pageant, Raulerson has competed nationally as Miss Florida in the 2011 Miss America Pageant. She has also been crowned 2010 Miss Largo, 2009 Miss Lakeland and 2005 Miss Largo Outstanding Teen. In 2008, she was on the Florida Strawberry Festival queen’s court.
“This has been a huge growing experience,” she says. “It has really molded me into the person I am today. I’m really grateful to everyone in Plant City who has supported me.”
Contact Amber Jurgensen at email@example.com.
Robinson competes for crown
Starting pageants at age 5, Ashlyn Robinson is no stranger to showbiz. Twelve pageants and several titles later, she is still competing.
“I got into pageants to be as involved in the community as I could,” the Plant City High alum says.
Most recently, Robinson charmed the judges at the 2012 Miss University of Florida Pageant. She energetically performed a tap dance routine to “Sing, Sing, Sing” and took home a crown fit for a queen.
That victory earned her a spot in the 2012 Miss Florida pageant earlier this month at the Mahaffey Theater in St. Petersburg. Although she wasn’t a finalist, Robinson says she loved participating.
In addition to Miss UF 2012, Ashlyn has also been Little Miss Plant City, Miss Teen Heart of Plant City and Miss Pinellas County.
“Pageants get a bad reputation from people who don’t get them,” Robinson says. “They teach you poise, grace and interview skills.”
The 20-year-old dancer attends the University of Florida and is majoring in telecommunications.