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f you don’t already have the pleasure of knowing this playful, enchanting, and genuine young lady, then I am honored to introduce you to Delia Lubanovici! You could find this sweetheart cheerily rollerblading along the breathtaking pier of Seattle, Washington while listening to her favorite country tunes (her favorite artist is Kacey Musgraves, by the way) or strolling through a soggy Disneyland with a couple of her girlfriends, wearing her red polka dot poncho and Minnie Mouse ears. But if you haven’t, then maybe you’ve watched a YouTube clip of Delia pacing forward on stage, overcome by emotion, as she accepted the crown and title of Miss Seattle 2013. In any event, if there is something you should know about Delia, she’s a visionary actively pursuing her dream of working in the entertainment industry.
While she may have been crowned Miss Seattle 2013, the road to being a pageant queen was not always straight and smooth for Delia. She was introduced to pageantry through her older sister’s friend, Jennifer, and competed in her first pageant at age 15. On a whim, the rookie borrowed a dress from Jennifer and excitedly entered the Miss Washington Teen USA competition. She didn’t place that year, but returned the following year, still without desirable results. Even though she didn’t place high in the beginning of her pageant career, she enjoyed the opportunity to meet other girls from all over Washington State with similar goals and interests; and pageantry naturally suited her appreciation for fashion and dress up. What began as the perfect hobby for her bouncy personality quickly advanced into a serious endeavor once she began competing in the Miss America organization.
But her involvement in pageants raised eyebrows in the conservative Christian community she grew up in. Delia wasn’t prepared for the criticism she received as her parents and family were very supportive of her ambitions from the start. Instead of brushing the negative feedback under the rug, Delia kindly informed the naysayers about the organizations she’s grown to appreciate. “The Miss America program, for example, is a scholarship program,” she says. “Each year, they give over 45 million dollars in scholarships, making it the largest provider for scholarships for women in the world.” While some students earn grants though sports programs or through academic achievements, this became Delia’s approach to earning scholarships for her education at Northwest University.
To Delia, the most hurtful remarks are those that attack her integrity. “Every now and then, I’ll find someone who thinks I am conceited and that I compete for attention or to glorify myself,” she recalls. “There were some people who actually thought pageants are a horrible idea; that it was demeaning towards women and that standing on stage in a bathing suit is wrong.” When selecting swimsuits, Delia sensibly considers her options and chooses swimwear she typically wears to the beach. “I would have experienced a personal conviction had I worn something that I thought was wrong. I never felt like competing in pageants was wrong to do and I am very fortunate because I have very understanding parents who encourage me to pursue my dreams. I know by faith and through prayer that this was something okay for me to do.”
In eight years’ time, Delia competed three times (at ages 15, 16, and 18) through the Miss USA organization, headed by Donald Trump and NBC Universal; and six times through the Miss America organization, a non for profit program operated entirely by volunteers. Because both establishments are pageant-based, they are easily confused yet they differ for the following reasons:
Miss USA has four phases of competition: a select private interview, on-stage question, swimsuit, and evening gown. Delia describes the organization’s ideal candidate for Miss USA as “the kind of girl who is absolutely physically fit 100%. They’re looking for a model or a spokeswoman.”
Miss America, on the other hand, has five phases of competition: a ten-minute private interview, on-stage question, talent, lifestyle and fitness through the expression of swimwear, and evening gown. “The Miss America program wants a scholar,” she says. “They want someone who is talented and savvy in different areas of their life.”
Delia entered every competition always with the hope of winning a pageant, but didn’t truly believe she was capable of doing so. Personal insecurities about her weight affected her confidence and essentially the outcome of her overall on stage presentation. Surprisingly, it was through the Miss America program that Delia conquered her doubts. “I battled with my weight all my life. The first time I thought that I was fat was when I was six years old! It’s a life long journey that I’m still going through but the reason I love pageantry is because it gave me motivation to be the best version of myself. It’s not about the way I look anymore. It’s about finding stability in my health and the way I feel when I’m healthy.”
Wholesome eating habits and cross-fit training were key elements to Delia’s overall physical health and fitness. “I never thought that I could actually win because I didn’t take my health seriously. I realized that food is meant to nourish our bodies. It is not meant to be a reward or something to indulge in to an extreme,” she explains.
While physical preparation leading up to competitions was imperative to Delia, mental and spiritual readiness was equally important. “When I prepare for a pageant, I have to be physically fit because my body is the physical evidence of a healthy lifestyle. I have to be mentally prepared by challenging myself to learn about politics, religion, history, state policies and foreign affairs. And without my faith, I would not be grounded. In my opinion, I would not be able to stand on stage if not for my faith because I would feel like a fraud. I never did well if I wasn’t spiritually where I felt I needed to be.”
In 2012, Delia competed for the Miss Seattle title (a local preliminary of the Miss America organization), but didn’t place. Instead, she was elected by the Miss Seattle Board to receive their prestigious “Four Points on the Crown” Award, a scholarship reward that honors style, scholarship, service, and success. Other memorable awards Delia has received in past competitions include Miss Congeniality (three times) and top scores for evening gown and talent.
Delia’s strong desire to win forced her to persevere beyond her failures, learn from her disappointments, and strengthen her talents and abilities. She returned to Miss Seattle 2013 focused, confident and determined to win. Many pageant spectators may not realize the amount of work that some candidates put into their pursuits. Delia spent hours upon hours daily studying the Miss America program and its history. She researched past contestants and their interviews in preparation for the mandatory ten-minute interview with the judges. She read the newspaper on dozens of news outlets to educate herself on current events, shed twenty pounds and carefully planned her wardrobe. She was ready to answer any question at any given time. She was more than prepared for this competition and felt that she finally had a chance at winning the crown. Delia’s diligence and intense preparation just goes to show that modern day pageants are no longer superficial, but dig deeper to discover talented aspiring pageant queens who possess valuable critical thinking skills.
The ten minute interview is a significant part of competition and occurs the day prior to on-stage competition. During this interview, candidates present their resume (i.e. educational background, platform, scholastic/career ambition, talent, etc.) and their platform statement (link). Delia’s personal platform consists of helping women build thriving careers and prosper in the mainstream workplace through programs such as Dress for Success.
Through the years, interviews were Delia’s least favorite phase of competition, but with past experience and extra practice she credits to her Communications major, the once dreaded segment became an interesting challenge and Delia’s preferred phase of competition. “I felt really good going into my interview,” reflects Delia of her ten-minute personal interview. “When I came out, I just started weeping. I wasn’t sad. I was crying out of relief. Deep down inside, I knew that ‘I did it!’ I got the interview that I’ve always wanted – the interview that I felt really represented who I was!”
While she had a promising interview, there was still work to be done. Later that evening, Delia focused on the talent phase of competition as it also carries a substantial weight of a contestant’s overall score. Delia describes feeling at ease the next day. She sang “All that Jazz” from the musical Chicago and even though her vocal performance wasn’t as strong as her personal best rendition of the tune, she felt she performed well in all stages of competition. “Whatever was going to happen, I truly believe that I did my absolute best and tried my absolute hardest,” she thought silently as she mentally replayed every detail of her routine that evening. “I prayed that the judges would see all of the hard work that I did and I prayed that I represented myself in such a way that it would be honoring to me, to my family, and to God.“
About a dozen of Delia’s close friends and family were present at this monumental competition, supporting their dear Delia. “One of the most supportive people was my oldest sister, Lia. She’s been to every single pageant and she gets emotionally invested. It makes me so happy to see her so involved and she loves that I love competing in pageants,” Delia says with a smile. Once crowning came, the 4th runner up was called, then the 3rd, followed by the 2nd runner up. The 1st runner up was named and then finally, the announcement sounded over the speakers across the auditorium: ‘Your new Miss Seattle for 2013 is … DELIA LUBANOVICI!’ Screams and cheers erupted from all around the auditorium.
“Once my name was called, I became numb in a beautiful, blissful way. I became numb because I was shocked that they actually called MY name. I thought to myself there’s no way – it can’t be true. It can’t be that after nine times of trying to win, this could actually be my time! I felt like everything just kind of dropped and I was very relieved. I remember saying to one of my friends (another contestant) who was hugging and congratulating me, ‘I can’t believe it! I can’t believe I did it!’”
As she walked forward with tears rolling down her cheeks to receive her prized crown, she realized for the first time that hard work really brings results.
During her eight-month reign, Delia participated in many events citywide while also serving her beloved Seattleites. One of the most rewarding things she did was visit the local children’s hospitals. “Just by simply walking into their rooms wearing a crown and sash brought joy to the children. That is how iconic the Miss America crowns and sashes are.” Meeting new people was just one of the perks of her new occupation. She enjoyed waving to the crowds on the back of a Mustang in the Grand Parade during Summer Celebration!, handing out backpacks to foster children, and volunteering at the Seattle Fire Department for their Fire Festival among so much more! Delia is a huge Twitter fan so she was thrilled when she was asked to live tweet on behalf of Bellevue.com at the Bellevue Fashion Show. “I went to the places that I love and the Seattleites really accepted me and were proud of their representative – that was my favorite thing about being Miss Seattle.”
Since crowning her successor late last year and saying farewell to her crown, Delia was invited to host “The Delio,” a web series via TDZdaily.com, where she spontaneously discusses any subject that falls under the entertainment umbrella. She mentors aspiring pageant contestants while continuing to operate a European imports store she opened with her brother and partner in 2012.
Delia knows that bigger and better things are ahead for her and doesn’t plan on slowing down any time soon. She’s recently received the Miss Kirkland USA 2014 title through the Miss USA Organization and is currently preparing to compete for Miss Washington USA in October. She intends to follow in the footsteps of her two role models, Gretchen Carlson – Miss America 1989 and Rachel Smith – Miss USA 2007, who both took their coveted titles and used them to kick start their careers in television broadcasting.
“I don’t think that you’ll ever regret doing something that you wanted to do, but you’ll always regret not trying. Had I never competed in pageantries, I would have always wondered what it would have been like. I tried and I had lots of failures in the process, but I also persevered through them. Have faith that your talents and abilities are there for a reason.” *THM
~ UPDATE! Interview questions not included in this post are now available in an ALL NEW! Q & A with Delia. CLICK HERE!