With the title of Miss Lee County USA 2013 under her belt, Cape Coral resident Heather Stephens has her sights set on her next challenge.
Stephens, 20, is heading to Hollywood - Hollywood, Fla., that is.
In July, the college student and mall security guard is heading to the East Coast to participate in the Miss Florida USA 2013 pageant. Stephens hopes to win the state title and earn a spot in this year's Miss USA competition.
PHOTO SPECIAL TO THE BREEZE
Cape Coral resident Heather Stephens was recently named Miss Lee County USA 2013. In July, she will compete in the Miss Florida USA pageant.
"Miss Florida is a huge huge opportunity," she said, adding that she is very excited about competing at the state level.
"I am nervous, but the nerves haven't hit me yet," Stephens said.
The Edison State College student, who is scheduled to complete her Associate of Arts degree this year, got into pageants at a young age.
"I started when I was 2," she said. "I won Little Miss New Jersey."
At age 11, she began modeling, acting and singing. A few years later, her production company sung its way to first place at nationals for group solos.
When Stephens was 16, she won the title of Miss Citrus of Naples.
"I know that it would help open doors," she said.
In the years that followed, Stephens did runway modeling in a Ralph Lauren show and posed for Porsche and bathing suit ads distributed outside of the country. She did runway a couple months ago at Fashion Week in New York.
In October, she beat out four others for the Lee County title.
"I did it because I kind of missed doing pageants," Stephens said.
She will likely take part this summer in Swimsuit Week in Miami.
"Modeling is definitely my No. 1 thing," Stephens said, adding that she remembers looking at the models, clothes and shoes in Vogue as a child.
"Ever since I was little I completely loved fashion," she said. "And the creative factor of it - someone can completely transform you."
Stephens most enjoys taking on high fashion projects because of the high level of creativity involved with them as compared to commercial jobs.
"It's definitely the more creative part to modeling," she said.
Stephens noted, however, that she is not "very girly."
"I'm not ashamed to get down and dirty," she said, adding that she likes to go fishing with her fiance and enjoys working out - she runs five miles a day.
A 2010 Mariner High School graduate, Stephens ran track and was named captain of her school's basketball team her junior year. She was awarded one year for winning the most three-point shots among females in Lee County.
Upon getting her associate's degree, Stephens plans to transfer to Florida Gulf Coast University and earn a bachelor's degree in communications.
"Education is always good to have," she said.
Stephens currently works as a security guard at the Edison Mall in Fort Myers. She was on duty the night a man was shot and killed there two days before Christmas. Stephens' employer recognized her efforts that night.
"I became CPR certified because of it," she said of the shooting.
Asked how she has been preparing for the upcoming competition, Stephens said she increased her workouts, is paying more attention to her diet and has been practicing her walk and how she will style her hair and do her makeup.
Her biggest fear is falling down the steps when it comes time.
"Basically, I just go out there and have fun," she said. "If you're nervous and going to have a heart attack out there, then you're not enjoying it."
Stephens hopes participating helps her achieve her goals and help others.
"The more you go up - you have the opportunity to help out more people," she said of the pageantry circuit. "It's the exposure."
A registered bone marrow donor and regular blood donor - Stephens donates every eight weeks - leukemia is one of her hot-button issues.
"I think it's because you, as a person, can actually really help someone out," she said. "You can literally save someone's life."
Autism is another issue that is close to her heart. Stephens explained that her fiance's 3-year-old nephew, and her soon-to-be nephew, has autism.
"That's more of a personal thing to me," she said.
The road to Hollywood, however, is not an inexpensive one. Stephens is currently trying to raise money to cover three pages in the state pageant magazine at $250 a page, which is required of each of the contestants.
The funds will also cover her bathing suit, competition outfits, hair and makeup supplies and other additional expenses, like food and emergencies.
"It's basically for everything that I need - my dress, my makeup, shoes," Stephens said. "Anything that I'm going to need on my way up there."
The hotel is paid for by the pageant.
"I'm not just a beauty queen," she said. "I'm much more than that."
To help Stephens cover her costs, make checks payable to Heather Stephens/Miss Florida USA and mail to 2233 S.E. 26th St., Cape Coral, FL 33904, or contact her father, Craig Stephens, at (239) 848-7246.
For businesses that want to donate and receive sponsorship space on one of Stephens' magazine pages, or for more information, contact her father. Stephens has to have the three pages and money turned in by June 1.