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ENMU student competes for Miss New Mexico

Aleiha Applegarth is not your typical Miss New Mexico contestant. When she was in elementary school, competing in the Miss America Pageant was the furthest thing from her mind.

“Growing up, I thought it wasn’t much but standing on stage and looking beautiful,” Applegarth said. “I had no idea how much more there is to it. Once I got involved I learned how much hard work goes into it.”

Applegarth, a Portales resident attending Eastern New Mexico University, will be one of the contestants at the Miss New Mexico Pageant from June 6-12 in Alamagordo. Applegarth won Miss Southeastern New Mexico on March 6 in Roswell.

The competition helps her get through school with scholarship money and gives her a chance to pursue a cause. Applegarth choose to fight skin cancer due to tanning. Applegarth also performs a monologue and sings “Perfectly Marvelous” from Cabaret.

“I was sick with laryngitis during the contest,” Applegarth said about the competition on March 6. “It took everything I had to sing it. For a second I couldn’t talk during the interview part of the competition.”

Applegarth said the contest in Alamagordo will be divided into five categories: Interview (40 percent), Talent (30 percent), Evening Gown (10 percent) and Question/Answer (10 percent).

Miss New Mexico 2004 was Ranah Jones of Tatum. Jones’ mother, Bethe Cunningham, is working with Applegarth on her act.

“One main focus is deciding what you are passionate about for your platform,” Cunningham said. “She wants to get the word out to stop skin cancer before it starts.”

The winner of Miss New Mexico will make a trip to Atlantic City, N.J., for the 83th Annual Miss American Pageant for three weeks in September.

Jones, who is attending law school at Texas Tech University, has been traveling around the United States to speak about her cause, which is encouraging organ and tissue donations. Jones said a close friend, Chad Alexander, died in 1998 waiting for an organ transplant.

“I started the Have a Heart Program to promote organ and tissue donations,” Jones said. “It’s been overwhelming to say the least. A lot of work goes into preparing for the competition and being Miss New Mexico. It has been a lot of fun.”

Jones was in Atlantic City in September for the Miss America Pageant. Ericka Dunlap of Florida was crowned Miss America 2004.

“It was awesome,” Jones said. “It was my first time to the east coast. I was there for three weeks. Despite what many people think, the other girls were friendly. In fact, I made friends with Miss Idaho, Tiffany Jewell, and she flew down to help with one of the pageants in New Mexico.”

The Miss America Organization and its state and local organizations made available more than $45 million in cash and scholarship assistance, according to the Miss America Web site.