Nov. 30-Dec. 6, 2001
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Board: Rework ailing budget
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Anthrax is now a weapon

Economics adjusts to a global influx

New center helps international students polish their English skills
Correction -- CVC and TJ Area Chapter of United Way
In Memoriam
Notable -- awards and achievements of faculty and staff
Negotiating, naturally
Hot Links -- CardioVillage Web site
Artisans’s Bazaar Nov. 30-Dec. 2
After Hours -- Cersley nurses a desire to serve public as Miss Virginia
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After Hours

Krystal Cersley Cersley nurses a desire to serve public as Miss Virginia

By Matt Kelly

For a hobby, it’s a beauty.

Krystal Cersley, 23, a thoracic cardiovascular nurse in the Medical Center, is vying to be Miss Virginia, having already been crowned Miss Albemarle and Miss Albemarle County Fair.

Cersley began competing seriously in pageants three years ago, having spent her teen years competing in gymnastics, volleyball, softball, basketball and track (though she does recall having been entered in some pageants as a tyke). After attending Pensacola (Fla.) Christian College, Cersley entered the Miss Albemarle 1999 competition “for fun” at the urging of her cousin, Krissy Yowell, who won the contest in 1998.

The contestants voted Cersley “Miss Congeniality” — “I went out of my way to meet the other contestants,” she said — but she didn’t win the crown.

The experience only whetted her appetite. She entered again in 2000, this time determined to win. And she did.

Cersley then sought to broaden her horizons and get a different perspective. At subsequent competitions, she met young women she otherwise would not have met, some of whom have remained her friends.

“This gives me more character and wider views of different things,” Cersley said of pageants. “I got a taste of it, and it was a challenge.”

She thrives on community service, including organizing and hosting the Lion’s Little Miss Pageant, which this year raised $750 toward a diabetic child’s expenses. She participated in a cancer awareness walk in Lynchburg and did other work with the Lions.

“It’s most rewarding to give back to the community,” Cersley said.

As Miss Albemarle, Cersley attended events, such as a local fishing tournament, wearing blue jeans, a T-shirt and a small rhinestone-studded crown. “The kids all want to know if it’s real,” she said. “I tell the older children it’s as real as you want it to be.”

Her “platform” — the causes she champions in interviews — in the Miss Virginia preliminaries includes her concern for the elderly. Cersley credits her grandmothers, one age 88 and the other 89, and her experience in her work as a nurse for making her more aware of seniors’ issues.

“They have lived through so much, the Depression and wars,” said Cersley, who described her grandmothers’ stories as “fascinating.”

“I’ve learned to appreciate the elderly more, help realize their needs,” she said. “It’s a good experience.”

Children and the elderly can help each other, she said. Grandparents share history through their stories, lending perspective to current events, while being around children can often invigorate older people.

In February, Cersley passed her Miss Albemarle crown to Kamesha Smith, another U.Va. employee, then beat a field of five contestants for the Miss Albemarle County Fair title in July. After her crowning, she promoted the fair, making appearances and giving media interviews. Cersley gave the fair’s opening address, cut a yellow-and-blue ribbon, then spent the next few days walking the grounds, meeting people and handing out ribbons to award winners.

She is currently attending a round of preliminary competitions for the Miss Virginia pageant, one of which she must win by March to become eligible for the statewide pageant. While there is a preliminary event almost every week, the clock is ticking: this year is her only chance, since she will be too old next year. If she becomes Miss Virginia, Cersley will automatically qualify for the Miss America pageant.

She is also preparing for the Miss Virginia State Fair competition in January to determine who presides over the 2002 fair next October.

“A lot of people say this is just a dream,” she said. “But if I can’t dream, then what fun is life? If I don’t win, at least I know I will have tried.”

She sees her participation in pageants as a way of giving to the community. “It’s not the prestige or the glory behind it,” she said. “I think, ‘What an honor it is to go through the state and help people.’”

Cersley dismisses the suggestion that pageants are sexist and demeaning.
“I didn’t understand before I was involved,” she said. “It’s not all about beauty on the outside. It is about serving your community. It’s about inner beauty, beauty of character, not having a beautiful shell.

“The judges want to see someone who is genuine,” because fake personalities cannot be sustained, she said.

Win or lose, she has gained from the experience. Participation in pageants has made her better organized, more poised and has honed her people skills, she said — all of which helps her on the job.

“You have to be organized to be a nurse,” she said. “It helps in communicating with people, and communication is a priority with patients.”

Cersley said she plans to stay involved in the pageant world after her competition days are over, perhaps directing a “Little Miss” pageant, which she said helps youth and gives them self-esteem. And, she said, she will always work with the elderly.


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