If you still have doubts that pageants can be and often are about much more than beauty–as the achievements of pageant veterans such as Diane Sawyer, Oprah Winfrey, Halle Berre, Deborah Norville, Kathie Lee Gifford and Paula Zahn would suggest–have a look at 21-year-old Amanda Dack of Flagler Beach. The beauty is all there (the high cheekbones, the blue eyes, the solar smile, the riverine blond hair) but it might as well be parenthetical, considering her achievements.
At 17, she was appearing before her hometown city commission in Flagler Beach to lend her voice to younger friends’ complaints that flooding was keeping them from playing outside day after day. She was also appearing before the Flagler County School Board, repeatedly, to make the case for a school-wide recycling program at a time when there was none. School Board member Evie Shellenberger seized on the issue and, because there’s only so much that can be said in a public appearance before a board, created the Eco Committee, a Dack legacy still in place in the district (and yes, recycling became a norm following Dack’s initiatives.)
More recently, as a political science student at the University of Florida–from where she graduated last spring–she’s put in her time volunteering in U.S. Rep. John Mica’s office in Washington, D.C. In Gainesville, a town with a disproportionately high homeless population, she’s devoted many hours to preparing and distributing food for the homeless. She looks at society from its high political reaches to its more damning aspects, and gets to work doing something about it at either end.
So when Dack says the following: “I really want to get involved and see what the issues are, talk with different groups and actually get plans of action into place,” it’s not just talk. It’s a continuation of what she’s been doing all along.
She said those words Sunday morning, about 14 hours after being named Miss Flagler County at the annual pageant at the Flagler Auditorium. “I actually was” surprised, she said, “because I’ve been preparing for this pageant for so long, it’s been a childhood dream of mine.”
When asked the question — “the dreaded question,” in pageant director Elizabeth McLaughlin’s words–on stage (“what advice would you give a recent college graduate”), she answered: “To humble themselves and to be open-minded.” Humility, she says, is a way to learn that dream jobs don’t fall in one’s path immediately, and that opportunities big and small are made and build on each other.
Among her other plans as Miss Flagler County: helping girls in middle and high school learn that it’s about “loving who you are as a person, and really embracing that and not being someone else, because I know I battled that in high school,” Dack said. Society pressures everybody to “be somebody else, instead of taking who they are and going with that, because who they are is beautiful.”
Dack is taking a year off to work in a local law firm and get a take-out bakery business going with her mother before she heads to law school at the University of Miami. She plans on establishing her career for a few years before running for office locally, either for the Flagler Beach City Commission or the city’s mayorship.
Dack follows in the heels of 2009 Miss Flagler County Danielle Kelly. Other pageant winners Saturday evening included the following:
- Miss Junior Flagler County (ages 12-15): Brie Smith
- Little Miss Flagler County (ages 8-11): Daviana Campbell
- Little Miss Flagler County (ages 5-7): Madelynn Oliva
Here are the complete profiles for each contestant and photo galleries for all:
Miss Flagler County, 1968-2010
|2011||Alexa Linn Gardner|
|1998||Christin Chandler `|
|1977||Sharon Zabitosky Wilcox|