By Julia Capasso, IJ correspondent
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Date Posted: 03/31/05 3:44:24pm
At an age when most teenage girls are worrying about biology tests and boyfriends, Redwod High senior Sasha Priva Hoffman is worrying about rising breast cancer rates and toxic chemicals used in cosmetics.
She's also thinking a lot about the Miss Teen World pageant, in which she will compete next week in Trinidad and Tobago.
"I'm one of those people who gets kind of confused when I have to sit around my house and do nothing," says Hoffman, the reigning Miss Teen India America 2004.
During a typical week, Hoffman attends school, volunteers at the Marin Cancer Project and Marin General Hospital, and takes dance classes, all while making appearances as Miss Teen United States and preparing for the international competition. Her mother, Raje Hoffman, describes her daughter as "very individualistic and self-motivated. She really wants to explore."
Sasha Hoffman, a 17-year-old Greenbrae resident, began competing in pageants at age 14.
At the Miss Teen World competition, which runs from Tuesday to April 11, Hoffman will compete in five phases of competition: swimsuit, evening gown, national costume, talent and interview. In the talent portion, Hoffman will showcase her knowledge of five dance styles, including Middle Eastern belly dancing, traditional Indian dance, hip-hop, salsa and samba.
"My mom is Indian, so from her side of the family there's a huge emphasis to be doing Indian dance," says Hoffman, a dancer since age 4. "And that came into the Middle Eastern belly dancing, which is along the same lines."
The platform for the Miss Teen World competition "actually aligns with mine," she says, "and I didn't even know that. A lot of it is STD (socially transmitted disease) and HIV awareness, and breast cancer awareness, which for me is huge because Marin County has a really high breast cancer rate."
Hoffman finds the time to balance her social life with her pageant commitments by combining the two. She often brings her friends to pageant-related appearances, which can be up to six times a month. "It keeps your social life going," she explains.
Longtime friend Shwepa Patel, also a senior at Redwood, has been impressed with Hoffman's myraid commitments.
"She puts all her time into her work and puts everything into it," Patel says.
Hoffman makes sure to spend some time just hanging out with friends and relies on her mother for support. On the trip to Trinidad, however, Hoffman will go solo.
"Everyone's helped me up till now and they've come to my local pageants and state pageants, so I've had support here. I think I'm OK to go alone (to Trinidad)."
Raje Hoffman, a nurse who came to America from India when she was 24, and her husband, Rick, a sales manager, beam with pride about Sasha's success in pageants and her academic and service achievements. "Sasha is extremely strong-willed," Raje Hoffman says. "If she wants something, she'll go after it."
Her mother attributes Sasha's driven personality to the values passed on from her family, most importantly a love for learning and strong family ties. "In life, the two most important things are knowledge and love," she says. "Love comes from family, and family is No. 1."
The Hoffmans instilled in Sasha a combination of Indian and American values - what Raje Hoffman calls "the best of the East and the West, emphasizing tenacity and individuality."
Says Patel, "She's really motivated to do everything, and she can stick up for what she believes in."
Despite the time she expends on pageant preparation, Hoffman remains actively involved in community service projects. As an intern at the Marin Cancer Project, Hoffman coordinates events and finds sponsors and auction items for fund-raisers. She has coordinated the City Walk for Hope and various HIV and AIDS campaigns.
Recently, she has helped launch Safe Cosmetics, a national campaign that aims to convince cosmetics companies to "change what they're putting in their ingredients; a lot of them are toxic and cause cancer," she explains.
Yesterday, Hoffman appeared in the state capitol with state Sen. Carol Migden and Assemblywoman Judy Chu, who introduced two bills they authored that would require disclosure of harmful chemicals by cosmetics manufacturers and prohibit the use of two chemicals that have been linked to asthma, birth defects and cancer.
"I think it's really important because so many teens today are using (these cosmetics)," Hoffman says.
Dealing with the stress of a hectic lifestyle is a lot easier now than it was in past years, she says. "(Applying to) college is out of the way," she says. "I'm just not stressing (over school). But I think I work well under pressure and I work well knowing that I'm really busy.
Miss Teen India America pageant director Jinder Chohan describes Hoffman as "very professional."
"At such a young age, she's been able to accomplish so much," Chohan says. "She comes across as somebody a lot older just because you can give her an assignment and she just takes control of it, whereas with some people you have to lead them the whole way. She's very ambitious."
Hoffman is not entirely consumed by all her present activities; she's thinking about a career, too. "I want to go into business," she says, "either venture capitalism and investment banking or managing my own fashion line."
A fashion enthusiast, Hoffman is an intern at Gucci in San Francisco, has served on the board at Brass Plum Nordstrom, the retail store's teen section. She's also appeared in an ad campaign for fashion designer Anand John.
As Hoffman prepares to attend college in the fall - she has applied to several Ivy League schools - she will most likely leave the pageant world behind. Whatever the outcome of the Miss Teen World competition, her mother's advice will linger: "Life is not about winning or losing; life is about living. This is a life experience."
.com. Click on "Delegates," then on Miss United States, to see her profile and platform. Businesses or individuals interested in sponsoring Hoffman in the Miss Teen World pageant can e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Julia Capasso is an editorial intern from San Marin High School of Novato.
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