So, let's see what happens when Leah Roddenberry visits Section 36!
How did you celebrate winning the Miss Florida crown?
After Miss Florida, I celebrated with my family! I am the youngest of five so it can be rare getting my entire family together for a night since we are all over the place at various schools and locations. It was so nice having my entire family together to celebrate the big night. They had a ginormous cookie cake made after the competitions and we all devoured it in about 10 minutes!
Is there a specific goal you’d like to accomplish during your time as Miss Florida?
I have a goal of reaching and speaking to over 50,000 young women during my time as Miss Florida to share the message of my social impact initiative and encourage them to pursue leadership roles and achieve big goals. One of my goals in doing this is by taking Leah’s LeadHership Institute across the state, and nation, which brings young women together to learn from inspiring speakers and provide them with the tools to become the next generation of leaders. In doing so, another goal is to recruit candidates to participate in the Miss America and Miss Florida Organizations by telling them about how this program has shaped and transformed me and can provide the same opportunities for them.
What did you learn about yourself during the Miss Florida competition that will help you at Miss America?
Due to COVID-19, the Miss Florida Competition looked a littledifferent than normal and was a lot more condensed this year. This meant that being flexible and adaptable was critical during the competition. It was important to be okay with last minute production changes since the schedule was continuously changing due to many moving parts. I had the mentality that the most important thing was to stay focused on my performance and to not freak out over the uncontrollable changes. I know that this will help me at Miss America since being flexible is one of the biggest requirements for the job. I know the importance of not letting the changes and outside distractions stop me from focusing on simply doing my best and staying focused only on what I can control.
How did you select your social impact initiative, “Be a LeadHER”?
Growing up as the youngest of five children, I felt I always had someone speaking for me. I became terribly shy as a young girl which translated into every aspect of my life. I remember being terrified to raise my hand in class because I was fearful of what my peers would think of me. Eventually, when I did step outside of my comfort zone to run for student council or pursue a goal, I had peers tell me I wasn’t good enough or didn’t deserve it. Because I lacked the confidence and leadership skills at the time, I believed that I would never measure up to what I wanted to be or achieve. Once I moved to college, I realized that if I wanted to achieve all of my goals and dreams, I had to pursue them unapologetically. I realized a lot of girls I met had similar experiences. I saw the need for more women, especially young generations, to get involved in their communities and not be afraid to speak up for what they believe in and to go after all of their dreams. I founded the first Florida chapter of IGNITE National at the University of Florida to engage my peers to prepare for their futures and step into leadership roles on campus and in the community. I also saw the need for young girls to be taught the importance of being engaged citizens and giving back to their community at an early age. I authored “Leah Goes to Washington” to teach civics to young girls in a fun and interactive way! My initiative has taken me from mentoring young women at girls’ organizations to speaking with legislators on Capitol Hill. My goal is to inspire every young woman I meet to take healthy risks, not be afraid to use her voice, and to confidently pursue her dreams.
While at the University of Florida, you were a member of the Florida Dazzlers. What was that experience like?
Being a member of the Florida Dazzlers was one of the most rewarding experiences of my college career. I had the opportunity to dance with the Dazzlers for all four years at the University of Florida, and I will forever cherish every memory I made. It was incredible being surrounded by in a tight-knight and elite community with my teammates while supporting Gator athletics! The University of Florida is rooted in strong tradition and has an even stronger fan base of gators. Dancing at the athletic games, especially on the football field and basketball court, was thrilling, exhilarating, and fulfilling! It also was a personal achievement for me to make the dance team because when I was 17 going into my senior year of high school, I underwent spinal fusion surgery and had two titanium rods and 18 screws fused to my spine in order to correct a 63 degree curvature in my back due to scoliosis. My doctors informed me that I might not be able to touch my toes again and my flexibility to dance would greatly diminish. However, I worked really hard post surgery and was shocked and excited when I made the dance team less than a year after surgery!
If you could be a Disney character for a week, who would you choose? Why?
I have to go with Sleeping Beauty because I could always use some more beauty sleep, especially with my crazy schedule as Miss Florida!
You got to partake in the recent TB Lightning Stanley Cup boat parade. What was your
favorite part of that event?
This event was particularly fun for me because I served as the longest reigning Miss Tampa before becoming Miss Florida. Tampa is dubbed the “city of champions” due to all of the sports wins in the past couple of years, so it was very neat to bring another title home to Tampa Bay and partake in this celebration. My favorite part of the event was seeing the amount of people that came out to support the city in general. This event made me proud of my roots near Tampa Bay. It was definitely once-in-a-lifetime opportunity riding on a yacht down the river and seeing thousands of individuals support the lightning and Tampa Bay.
If you had an extra ticket to see the Red Sox play the TB Rays, who would you take with you? Why?
I would bring my friend Allan to the game with me! He is a huge sports fan, and he especially loves the Red Sox. I, on the other hand, am a die-hard TB Rays fan, so I think it would cause a fun rivalry. We would most likely have a bet going for the winning team!
Is there a feature or activity during a baseball game that you’d especially like to experience?
I did have the opportunity to throw the first pitch at a TB Rays game which was really neat. However, I would love to throw the first pitch out at another baseball game since the one at the Rays game didn’t make it over home plate. I’ m going to need some more practice on my baseball skills!
As always, I want to thank Leah for visiting with us, and for sending along the pictures to go with the interview.
As Leah continues her time as Miss Florida, I encourage you to follow her title's Instagram and Facebook accounts. You should also check out the official Miss Florida website. They're great ways to keep track of everything she has going on!
I also want to wish her the best of luck when she competes for the Miss America crown this winter. It would be fantastic to have another Section 36 visitor wear that crown!