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Jessica Billings, 26, is competing in the Miss USA pageant. She is a flight attendant and has lived in Western Pa., Minnesota, Indiana and Wisconsin. She now resides in Philadelphia. The Miss USA pageant gives fans the opportunity to vote their favorite contestant into the top 16. You can vote for Billings by June 15 here. The Miss USA pageant airs June 16 at 9 p.m. on NBC10.
How do you describe yourself?
I'm extroverted, a people person and I have a huge heart. I have so much gratitude for how I live my life. Watching my brother Jamie grow up (he has autism), I remember watching him for months and months learn how to ride a bike. I feel so lucky for the experiences I've had.
How did you first get interested in pageants?
It all started for me when I was a little girl and going to parades. I was a scaredy cat. I was scared of clowns. When I was six years-old, my mom put me in a parade. I did a few pageants growing up, no makeup, just community pageants. That's when my journey began.
Did you always want to participate in the Miss USA pageant?
It was a dream of mine since I was a little girl. I used to watch Miss USA and it was like the Super Bowl in my family. We would watch it with popcorn. I started competing in the Miss USA pageant system when I was a teenager in high school and college.
So, what's it like being a flight attendant?
I love to travel. I am a secret hippie. I spent a year in corporate America after college. After that, I decided I wanted to travel the world and become a flight attendant. My dad is a pilot and my mom was a flight attendant. I grew up with flight benefits.
What's your favorite city in the world?
I've traveled all over the world-- China, Russia and all over Europe. But my favorite place is Buenos Aires. I lived there for two months. You can have a bottle of wine and an amazing steak for $20. It's a very laid back culture. People enjoy being with one another. I love the way people are there.
How has competing in pageants helped you?
I love being on stage. It's given me self-growth. It's a great way to push myself in different areas of my life. I do think pageants teach you lifelong skills. If I have to speak in front of a group, I'm prepared and confident. It's a great way to look at areas of life and look for improvement.
How do you prepare for the Miss USA competition?
There are three areas of competition-- swimsuit, evening gown and interview. There is no talent. Thank goodness for that because my talent would be falling up the stairs or down the stairs. I stay on top of current events and work with a PR (public relations) team. I work out six days a week and follow a healthy diet. I'm doing a lot of shopping. You need two to three outfit changes per day for two weeks. It's like a big vacation.
Do you have a platform?
In the Miss USA system, there are no platforms, but I have a platform. It's autism awareness. One of the reasons why I want to win is to be able to speak about autism. I'm already involved in charities. Everything I'm already doing could be so much bigger if I had a title. I would be a Miss USA that is very involved and make a splash at Miss Universe, representing the entire country.
How do you describe your personal style?
I'm always working on my own individual style. I think of myself as a role model, fashion icon and all-around woman. My style is classy with a splash of fun. I love basic dresses with a gorgeous necklace. I'm a huge accessories girl. I get a lot of my stuff at thrift shops.
What do you like about Philly?
The food is amazing-- between Hershey's chocolate, Tastykakes and cheesesteaks-- so much good food. The history of Philly is amazing. The cobblestone roads are preserved too.