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Subject: Pageant winner prepares for state competition

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Date Posted: 09/23/05 1:17:41pm

Date published: 9/23/2005

Caressa Cameron's workout routine is as tough as any jock's, but she's still excited about her new pink evening gown.

"I hit the gym as hard as any football player," the reigning Miss Fredericksburg Fair said, adding that she tries to maintain a healthy diet but still indulges once in a while. "I don't limit myself from anything anyone else has--I keep it balanced so come two weeks before the pageant, I don't have to be in the gym for 24 hours."

Caressa Cameron, the reigning 2005 Miss Fredericksburg Fair, is looking forward to an appearance at the State Fair of Virginia and the 2006 Miss Virginia USA pageant.

Cameron, 18, is preparing for the Miss Virginia Association of Fairs Scholarship Pageant in January, when she'll travel to Williamsburg to compete against other fair-pageant winners.

She plans to attend the State Fair of Virginia, which began last night and runs until Oct. 2, to hand out autographed postcards and answer questions about her hometown fair.

Cameron's new gown was at the tailor's Monday afternoon, but the rest of her wardrobe was ready, including a hot pink halter top and matching skirt for the "personality wear" category at January's competition.

"That's hot," said Mary Cooper, pageant coordinator for the Fredericksburg Agricultural Fair, as Cameron held up the outfit.

Cooper and her daughter, Kim, continue to work with Cameron to prepare her for future pageants.

"She's really prepared and ready to go down to state, and I truly feel she's going to do very well," Mary Cooper said.

Cameron is only the second black woman to win the Miss Fredericksburg Fair pageant, according to fair officials.

"I grew up in Fredericksburg and I remember going to watch the pageant," Cameron said. "I didn't see a lot of African-American or Latino women competing I never thought it was a big racial issue or anything."

Cameron said the Fredericksburg Fair title isn't unique in being one few black women have held. But race isn't a major issue when she's competing, she said.

"That's not the type of stuff I look at when I go to pageants," she said with a shrug. "Someone always has to start. Vanessa Williams was the first African-American Miss America."

The freshman at Germanna Community College will compete in the Miss Charlottesville USA pageant Sunday, which paves the way for her to compete in the Miss Virginia USA and Miss USA pageants.

In February, she will begin entering preliminary competitions for the 2006 Miss Virginia America pageant, which could one day lead to the Miss America stage.

"Her goal is to be Miss America one day," Cameron's mother, LaVern, said. "These are training grounds for her. Ultimately that's what this is about."

Cameron has been competing in pageants since she was 7, beginning with a local pageant called "Someday I'll Be Miss America."

LaVern Cameron said she sometimes worries about her daughter's ability to balance school, pageants and other activities.

"That's always a concern--education and extracurriculars," she said. "It begins to take a toll on you because there is a lot of traveling, but she has a lot of passion for this thing."

Cameron, who graduated from Massaponax High School in June, said she plans to discuss HIV and AIDS in her 90-second speech at the Virginia Association of Fairs pageant.

For the next three months, Cameron will prepare for the pageant. Speech rehearsals, wardrobe preparation and photograph proofs are on the to-do list.

"Most of the training I do is vocabulary and interview training--communication classes for public speaking, being able to talk to large groups of people and being able to relate to my community," she said.

Cameron said she puts a lot of work into each pageant, but that's the easy part.

"The hardest part about pageants is not at the pageant --it's dealing with the everyday and the stereotypes people place on us based on what they see on TV," she said. "Being at pageants is relieving because you're dealing with people who have the same interests as you."

To reach NATASHA ALTAMIRANO:540/374-5000, ext. 5779

Date published: 9/23/2005

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