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NIGMS' Mitchell Competes for Pageant Crown

By Susan Athey

She might not have won the crown, but in the hearts of her NIGMS colleagues, Jilliene Mitchell is this year's Miss Maryland USA.

Mitchell, an editorial assistant in the Office of Communications and Public Liaison, recently competed in a statewide pageant to win the coveted crown and the title of Miss Maryland USA 2003.

Jilliene Mitchell

The pageant, held recently in Cambridge, Md., was a weekend-long event that capped 6 months of preparation for Mitchell. In addition to working full-time at NIGMS during the period, she met with a personal trainer three times a week, did volunteer work for the American Diabetes Association, and participated in coaching sessions with Wendy Davis, the first African American to win the Miss Maryland USA title back in 1994.

A novice to pageant life, Mitchell found herself up against some 60 other contestants, many of whom were seasoned pageant regulars (this year's winner was second runner-up in last year's Maryland Teen USA pageant).

"I never imagined myself a contestant in a pageant," Mitchell admitted. She said it was a friend who convinced her to enter.

"I looked at winning the pageant as the chance to become a positive role model for young girls, particularly young African American girls who don't often have positive role models," Mitchell said. Part of the responsibilities of the reigning Miss Maryland USA include promoting community service programs, charities and literacy throughout the state. In addition, the title holder serves as an ambassador for Maryland both nationally and internationally.

Overall, Mitchell said the competition was a great experience.

"I had the opportunity to meet many new and interesting people, including one who was a fellow Hampton University alumna — we ended up being roommates during the competition," she said.

Mitchell is surrounded here by parents Anthony and Dorothy Mitchell.

"It was also interesting to learn that the pageant was about much more than physical appearance," she said, adding that it was about "intelligence, confidence, poise and giving back to the community through various activities."

As to next year's competition and her likelihood of a return to pageant life, Mitchell gives a firm "no," but quickly adds, "Well…we'll see."

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