USF junior en route to Miss Florida competition

USF junior Laura Klosterman is looking to be the next Miss Florida. She has already taken the first step and qualified for the pageant by winning the crown of Miss Pasco County.

Klosterman, 21, will compete with 40 girls in the Miss Florida pageant in Miami during the first week of July. If she wins the title of Miss Florida, she will qualify to compete in the Miss America Pageant next year.

Klosterman is making appearances throughout the community at schools and other functions to promote her platform, Moving to Prevent Childhood Obesity, and preparing herself physically and mentally for the competition.

“I have been working out four to five days a week trying to get in my best shape,” she said. “And I’m trying to stay updated on current events and also working with (research methods professor) Dr. Porter with my interview and communication skills. I have also been driving back and forth to Orlando every other week for voice lessons with my vocal coach from Disney World.”

Klosterman hopes to prove there is more to a beauty queen than the sparkling tiara. An aspiring news reporter, broadcaster and advocate for child obesity prevention, Klosterman hopes not only to grow from her pageant experiences, but also to make a difference in the lives of children.

Originally from Knoxville, Tenn., Klosterman graduated high school early and moved to Florida in January 2003 to attend USF and begin her job as a character performer and entertainer at Walt Disney World.

“(Disney) told me I had two weeks to pack and come (down here),” Klosterman said. “I moved here by myself and didn’t know anyone. My family is still in Tennessee.”

Klosterman, whose talent is singing, always enjoyed being on stage and performing.

“I’ve been singing and dancing since I was a kid,” Klosterman said. “I love performing on stage.”

At 16, Klosterman decided to take her first shot at pageant competition.

“I’d seen (competitions) before and thought I’d try it out,” Klosterman said. “My mom didn’t push me; I decided to do it on my own.”

Since her initial foray, Klosterman has competed in numerous shows, including Miss America Teen in 2002, America’s Junior Miss and Tennessee Teen USA in 2003. She described pageants as something that could help her in the long term.

“It’s really opened my eyes to many possibilities,” she said. “It’s also helped with my poise and presence.”

Klosterman’s pageant coach, Michelle Topping, is also the director of Miss Pasco County and the 1991 titleholder.

“She really did a great job up until the pageant,” said Topping. “She worked really hard and deserved (to win).”

Every Miss America state and local titleholder must select a platform issue of importance to her and society. Klosterman hopes to educate children on the issue of obesity, and most importantly, how to prevent it by practicing healthy eating habits and exercising. Having worked with children her entire life, Klosterman noticed children have become increasingly sedentary.

“One in every three children is obese,” Klosterman said. “And two in every three Americans are obese. The kids I’m around love TV and movies and can name every character, and yet they couldn’t tell me their favorite vegetable.”

Now working as a live-in nanny for three children, Klosterman is using the knowledge she has gained on the topic of childhood obesity to help encourage children to be active and eat healthy.

“Parents are finding the easy way out by placing their children in front of the television when they should be keeping them active,” she said.

This past weekend, she attended Give Kids the World, a program partnered with Disney that aims to “create magical memories for children with life-threatening illnesses and their families,” according to

“Talk about an amazing experience,” Klosterman said. “I was able to sing for the kids and families. After I sang my song, I brought all of the kids up on stage with me. The kids had a blast, and I couldn’t have been happier being there with those children. This was such an honor to be able to sing for them and meet with them.”

Klosterman is majoring in telecommunications with a minor in Spanish language and literature, and hopes to take advantage of the opportunities pageants provide to improve her interviewing and communication skills for her future in broadcasting.

“I plan to start in the small market and then work my way up,” said Klosterman, whose role models include CNN news anchor Robin Meade and ABC News World News Tonight anchor Bob Woodruff, whom she shadowed in New York.

With the help and recommendation of her high school guidance counselor, Klosterman saw pageant competition as an opportunity to get her foot in the door in the world of news reporting.

“I want to be a gatekeeper when reporting the news to society with fairness, efficiency, clarity and honesty,” Klosterman said.

The first Miss Florida was Elizabeth Hull in 1935, who represented Plant City. Miss Florida aims to set an example of the high standards of young womanhood of the state and the principles of the Miss America Pageant Program.

Contestants may compete at the state level more than once, but may only compete in the national Miss America competition one time.

“Right now we’re just working on simulations – walking, talking,” Topping said. “Practice makes perfect.”

Topping, as much as she would love to do so, will not be coaching Klosterman if she competes in Miss America.

“I’m really excited. It’s going to be a great experience,” Klosterman said. “All of my family is coming down. They’ve been a huge support system. It’s going to be great.”