U of O graduate crowned Miss Arkansas

Release Date: 6/21/1999

Clarksville, Ark. ---The new Miss Arkansas has an important message to get out.

Brandy Rhodes, who graduated from University of the Ozarks in May with a degree in radio/television/film, was crowned Miss Arkansas on June 19th in Hot Springs.

Competing as Miss Lake Dardanelle, Rhodes won both the interview and preliminary swimsuit competitions earlier in the week before winning the crown. The Hot Springs Village native was competing in her third Miss Arkansas Pageant.

"I wish I had a dollar for every time someone said the third time is a charm," said Rhodes, who finished in the top 10 the past two years. "I'm ready for the job, I'm prepared for the job, I wanted the job, but I never expected to get the job. It's still soaking in."

In the months heading up to the Miss Arkansas Pageant, Rhodes promoted a platform — cancer prevention and detection — that is very close to her heart. Rhodes' mother, Janice, has lived with a blue-cell tumor since 1994 and was diagnosed with cancer in October.

"I believe in turning negatives into positives," said Rhodes. "One of the negatives in my life was my mother being diagnosed with cancer. If I can use (Miss Arkansas) to help educate people about cancer, then something positive can come of it."
  
For the next year, Rhodes will talk to young people about preventative measures to fight cancer, and will speak to adults about taking steps to detect cancer.
   
"Most people don't know much about cancer prevention, other than perhaps to stop smoking and put on sunscreen," she said. "I want people to know that they can do things to prevent and detect cancer. I just try to share my mother's story, and let people know that there is a 60 percent cure rate if it's detected early enough."
  
Rhodes, a magna cum laude graduate, was a member of the Student Foundation Board at Ozarks. She also worked in the university's Advancement Office as a public relations assistant.
   
"We are so proud of Brandy," said Ozarks President Dr. Rick Niece. "I know how hard she has worked and sacrificed for this accomplishment. She is a wonderful example of what can happen when you set your goals high and dream seemingly impossible dreams.
   
"She told me throughout this year that she would be Miss Arkansas, and look at what she did. Best of all, her platform of cancer prevention and detection is a significant issue that affects us all. She now has a larger audience whit whom to share the message. Brandy Rhodes is a marvelous representative of the University of the Ozarks and truly exemplifies our mission and purpose."
   
The 5-foot-11 Rhodes, a high school basketball standout, performed an original tap dance number in the Miss Arkansas Pageant. The high-energy performance helped her win the Miss Arkansas title.
   
"I've been tap dancing for a long time, and it's something I really love to do," she said. "A lot of time it seems more like fun than a competition."
   
Rhodes, 22, said she did not decide to enter the Miss Arkansas Pageant until late in the spring.
   
"I had almost decided not to enter this year," she said. "The main thing that convinced me was my platform. It was something I really believed in, and I wanted to share. There is no doubt that my platform of cancer prevention and detection is my passion."
   
Rhodes, who plans to pursue a master's degree in film once her reign is over, did not begin competing in pageants until three years ago. Even in that short of time, her perspective on pageants has changed considerably since her mother's ordeal.
   
"In the past, competing in pageants was all about Brandy and winning the crown," she said. "I feel like I've got a purpose now, something I really believe in. I think about who I can impact and who I can help. I don't know if I always understood that."
   
Rhodes will represent Arkansas in the Miss America Pageant in Atlantic City on Sept. 18.