Ashley Dill, who recently nabbed third runner-up at the 18th annual Hooters International Swimsuit Pageant in Las Vegas, recalls the first time she dined at one of the restaurants.
"I noticed that the employees actually enjoyed their jobs and had a great time while they were making an income," says Dill, 24, a 2008 graduate of Silverdale Baptist Academy and presently a mass communications student at Chattanooga State Community College.
What she didn't know, however, was that the company held swimsuit competitions that would land her in the national limelight.
"I was actually unaware of the additional incentives, so I was pleasantly surprised when I discovered all of the special opportunities," Dill says. "This was my first time participating in a pageant. I had previously seen the pageant on TV and remember thinking that it was awesome that Hooters provided a way for our stores to showcase their employees and show everyone that there is more than just a pretty face behind those orange shorts. I met some amazing girls whose main focus is helping their community and bettering their futures, all while working at Hooters."
As third runner up, Dill also will be given a presence in Hooters advertising.
"Ashley's top five selection at the pageant means she will have a lot more visibility in marketing materials for the Hooters brand," says Ericka Whitaker, brand manager at Hooters of America.
The 100 pageant contestants were selected from more than 18,000 Hooters Girls who work in one of the more than 400 Hooters locations worldwide, according to a news release. The contest was held at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas in July. Dill was selected by a panel of celebrity judges and a series of interview questions to recognize volunteerism within the community, personality and overall commitment to Hooters.
Q. How did you prepare for the competition?
A. The only preparation I did for the pageant was spray tan. I don't go to tanning beds, so spray tans are key. I also decided to cut out soda three weeks prior to the competition and took extra care of my skin by putting carrot oil in my facial moisturizer. I worked out when I could, but it was not very often. I try to be active throughout my day because I don't have much time to go to the gym.
Q. What was the criteria to participate in the contest in Las Vegas?
A. There were a series of competitions leading up to this pageant and each one provided opportunities to advance onto the finals. I participated in Knoxville and Louisville (Ky.) before advancing on to Las Vegas for the pageant.
Q. I read that you volunteer at Big Brothers/Big Sisters in Chattanooga. Why is that organization special to you?
A. When I was younger I remember seeing some of my friends had a big brother or big sister and I wanted to have one. I am the oldest sibling so I never really had a big sister to look up to. Now that I have the opportunity to be one I am so excited. I want to be there for a child to help them through any problems they have, hang out with them and have a positive influence on someone. I am currently waiting to be paired with a little sister. You are committed for a year and I hope to spend as much time as possible with her.
Q. What are your educational plans after graduating from Chattanooga State?
A. I am taking things very slow because I currently work two jobs (Hooters and Black Creek Golf Club) in addition to volunteer work, so my final graduation date is pending at the moment. I recently switched my major to mass communications in hopes of one day pursuing my dream job as a sports broadcaster. After Chattanooga State, I plan on attending UTC to continue my degree.
Q. What was the competition like?
A. The competition was amazing. There was not a single dull moment. Being around 100 girls was very entertaining -- so many different personalities met up and meshed well together. I had the time of my life and I hope to return again. It was my first trip to Las Vegas and I had never been on a plane before so I was very nervous, but once I got there I forgot all about it. It was an incredible experience.
Contact Karen Nazor Hill at email@example.com or 423-757-6396.