As a young girl, Brittany Oldehoff grew up watching beauty pageants with her mom.
Today, as the reigning Miss Florida USA, she is just a week away from one of the biggest moments of her life: the Miss USA Pageant.
Oldehoff, 25, of Oakland Park, is one of 51 girls in the competition, which airs at 8 p.m. June 8 on NBC from the Baton Rouge River Center in Louisiana.
Live television is not enough to make her shake in her stilettos. Oldehoff says she's not that nervous. At least, not yet.
“I'm more excited than anything,” says Oldehoff, a graduate of Cardinal Gibbons High School and Florida Atlantic University. “If I get in the top five, I might be [nervous] because you never know what question the judges will ask.”
Her resume has prepared her for this moment. Oldehoff started modeling at age 10 after her mom enrolled her in John Casablancas classes. She signed with Wilhelmina Models at 17, and is now with Next Model Management. She has graced the cover of magazines such as GQ South Africa and FHM Spain and walked in fashion shows for Michael Kors, Zac Posen, Oscar de la Renta, Armani and Chloe.
In the past few years, she's also been a familiar face on South Beach at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Swim.
She also has experience in front of TV cameras, having been a model for Season 7 of the reality design show, “Project Runway.”
“With modeling, you're selling the clothes, you're working for the designers,” she says. “But in a pageant, you're selling yourself.”
For the show, which aired from January to April 2010, Oldehoff shared an apartment with 15 other models for two months. That also prepared her for pageants.
“I already knew what I was going into [with the pageant], and if you're nice to everybody and give everyone a chance, I feel if somebody doesn't like you … it is what it is,” she says. “It's not always going to be everyone liking you.”
The brunette beauty — who is sharing a hotel room in Baton Rouge with Miss Alaska USA — has made a lot of friends and calls pageantry a sisterhood.
Of course, they're not all best friends forever. “You put 50 girls in a room and not everyone is going to be friends.”
Unlike most pageant winners, Oldehoff would be considered a newbie. She entered her first pageant in 2013, where she was crowned Miss Fort Lauderdale 2014, after encouragement from one of her model pals, Jessica Rafalowski, who was Miss Florida 2008.
“She told me, ‘You need to do it. They would love you.'”
Preparation for the big Miss USA competition started as soon as she was crowned Miss Florida USA in July. She's met with vocal coaches, dance choreographers, pageant directors and fashion designers. Her elegant evening gowns had to be specially fitted to cling to her athletic, 5-foot-11-inch frame, and she's been cutting all carbs from her diet to be swimsuit-ready.
Oldehoff left her Oakland Park pad for Baton Rouge two weeks before the pageant with several suitcases filled with clothes, makeup and shoes galore. The hectic schedule includes 12-hour days with little time to eat and sleep.
“It's a known fact that girls lose weight, but it's not because we're not eating, it's because we are so busy and stressed,” she says.
At home, Oldehoff, who wants to one day work for the Secret Service, is a jeans, sandals and T-shirt kind of girl. She loves hanging out at Beach Place in Fort Lauderdale and going to the movies with her boyfriend of 10 years, Jacob Defrain.
She works out regularly at an LA Fitness and has 14 years of dance lessons under her belt. When it comes to showing off her moves on live TV, she says with confidence, “I got it.”
The Miss USA winner, who goes on to compete in the Miss Universe Pageant, receives a one-year scholarship from the New York Film Academy, living expenses in a Manhattan apartment, modeling portfolio by fashion photographer Fadil Berisha, and a full-time team including a professional wardrobe stylist, hair stylist and fitness trainers.
As part of the competition, every beauty queen must choose a platform to represent. Oldehoff's is the Crohn's & Colitis Foundation of America in honor of her father, Gregory, who died from complications of the disease in 2012.
“I was a daddy's girl for sure. He was always supportive of my career,” says Oldehoff, who will have her boyfriend and her mom, Lori Oldehoff, in the audience cheering her on next Sunday. “My mom told me that she had a dream she was talking to him when I was crowned Miss Florida … I feel like even though it was only a dream, he's watching me, proud.”
Miss USA Pageant airs 8 p.m. June 8 on NBC.
— Micaela Hood, @micaelahoodCopyright © 2015, South Florida