Welcome to Local Spotlight, a new series here on Independent Philly focused on local people and businesses that are making big waves outside of the Philadelphia region. For the kick-off of this new section, we spoke with Miss Pennsylvania USA, Cassandra Angst, about competing for the coveted title of Miss USA on May 14 (broadcast live on Fox), growing up in the Philly area, and her aspirations.
Independent Philly: How long have you been modeling and competing in pageants?
Cassie Angst: I’ve competed in pageants since I was 19 and modeled since I was 17, so I’ve been competing for four years and modeling for around six years.
Independent Philly: How did you first get your start with modeling and pageants?
Cassie Angst: I started modeling because of my hair. A hairdresser noticed the color of my hair, I have strawberry-blonde hair, and they wanted to use me as a model for Wella. Then I got into pageants because my grandmother and I always watched pageants growing up, and then my grandmother ended up passing away and the first year I watched the pageant by myself I thought I should try. So when I was 19 I went to Miss Pennsylvania USA and placed Top 5. I came back after that and finally ended up winning when I was 22.
Independent Philly: Describe the feeling that you had when you finally did win Miss Pennsylvania USA; what was that like for you?
Cassie Angst: It was so crazy, I felt numb, I was shaking. I couldn’t believe it when they actually called my name. They hadn’t even called my name yet and I heard, “the first runner-up is,” and I looked at her like, “Did I just really win?” and then I almost fell to my knees and she picked me up. I felt like all of my hard work paid off. A lot of people have dreams and they never come true. You’re always told to work hard and persevere and things will work out and finally this is my time and it just felt really good.
Independent Philly: Your career has taken you all across the country and to several international destinations. Where is your favorite location to which you’ve had a chance to travel?
Cassie Angst: My favorite so far is Kauai, a little island in Hawaii, and it was absolutely amazing. I love to go hiking so I went to the waterfall and I hiked down and I had to hold myself up on this rope and it took all of my power to hold me up. It took me 30 minutes to get down and once I got down I modeled underneath the waterfall and it was absolutely beautiful. Jurassic Park was filmed there so it looks there should be dinosaurs; it just makes you think of Jurassic Park when you’re there and I completely loved it.
Independent Philly: You grew up in the Philly area. When you think of Philadelphia, what are some of the first things that come to mind?
Cassie Angst: History, Brotherly Love, and diversity.
Independent Philly: Do you have some favorite places in Philadelphia that you like to frequent?
Cassie Angst: I love Center City Philadelphia. I love to go to Penn’s Landing; I’ve done yoga there. I love the culture and the history there. I grew up in Bucks County, Pennsylvania so I did a lot of the things around here like farms and a lot of the parks. I’ve gone all over the State. I’ve been to Hershey, Lancaster, Harrisburg, Pittsburgh, Amish Country, Erie, I’ve been everywhere. I like it here [Philly] because personally I’m a city girl. You can eat anything here. Whatever you’re in the mood for you’re going to have authentic options. If you want authentic Italian food you can definitely go to South Philly and get it, so it’s really nice.
Independent Philly: Philly is a world-class food city.
Cassie Angst: Yeah, that’s my problem right now, I love my food!
Independent Philly: You’re working on your BSN (Bachelor of Science in Nursing) to become a trauma nurse. What attracted you to the medical field?
Cassie Angst: When I was 17 years old my grandmother got put on hospice because of her breast cancer and she was put on hospice at home. My parents worked and her husband, my grandfather, worked and so I was the only one who could come stay home with her and take off a couple of days in high school. I would have to take care of her, I’d bathe her, feed her, change her, whatever she needed. I realized I was the only one who could do it. I was the only one who could put my feelings aside for the time being to take care of her needs. The rest of my family couldn’t do that so I realized that I had something special and I got into nursing that way.
Independent Philly: You’re competing in the Miss USA pageant on May 14. How will you use your platform as Miss USA if you win the crown?
Cassie Angst: I would use my platform to bring attention to healthy body image awareness, and I’m also a nursing major so I’ve learned all about nutrition, and anatomy, and everything that goes on. I suffered with an eating disorder for a couple of years myself with modeling. It’s a growing issue and it needs attention in our country. Every 62 minutes someone dies from an eating disorder and they can be completely prevented. I would use my platform to help other women and show other women that they don’t have to be a size zero or fit a mold, that you are beautiful no matter what. There is not one definition of beauty. I’m going out on that stage to show other women that you can overcome an eating disorder; you can overcome not loving yourself. I want to show other women that if you pursue something, even if society tears you down, that shouldn’t stop what you believe in.
Independent Philly: What kind of preparation goes into competing in an event of this magnitude? What kind of steps do you take to get ready for Miss USA?
Cassie Angst: (laughs) We do a LOT. I have an interview coach who helps me with public speaking skills, and I also take public speaking courses online through my school. I have to learn a lot about politics, what’s going on in the world on a daily basis, and stay up to date. I have a walking coach, someone who teaches me how to walk with poise. My gown is very heavy so it’s hard to walk with poise. I have somebody that dresses me. We have a lot of gowns and we have a lot of cocktail dresses. We are there for two weeks before the pageant is even there. going on. It takes a lot. It takes a village behind me to look good. You see me on stage and you see how much work I’ve put in but there is also a ton of other people that put in the work so I mean, I can’t take all the credit. I had a trainer for my body, a nutritionist, it takes a whole village. I work out twice a day, I eat six meals a day. It literally is a full time job, plus all the appearances I do and the modeling. I go to New York in the next few hours to do a commercial so I’m always on the run and I’m always traveling. I travel more than I am at home.
Independent Philly: Do you enjoy being out on the road or are you more of a home body?
Cassie Angst: I used to be a homebody until I saw what’s out there and now I love to travel and I love to meet new people. I’ve learned more traveling than I learned in school and I’ve learned a lot in school. I learn more about people [traveling]. I’ve been to Jamaica, the Bahamas, and all around the country. People are so diverse. You go to the South and they have a different culture and you go to the West Coast and it’s so different. It’s crazy. You just don’t realize it until you’re there. We Philadelphians, we don’t go into an elevator and start talking and being friendly or waving at people on the street. But if you go down to the South, everyone says hi to you and everyone wants to stop and talk. We’re very fast paced and they’re really slow paced.
Independent Philly: What advice would you offer to someone, either an adult or child, that is looking to break into the world of professional modeling and pageants?
Cassie Angst: I would tell them to get to know themselves and to get to love themselves before they even go into it because people are going to tear you down. You can be way underweight and someone will tell you that you’re too fat or you’re not good enough. I’ve been told that I was too pretty at one point. I don’t understand how that goes but I was told I was too pretty for a commercial which made no sense but you’re always going to be “too something” and not everyone is going to like you and you just have to be comfortable in your own skin and grow thick skin and realize that you’re good enough and it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks. What gives them the right to tell you that you’re not this or that? I would just tell them to get ready for it, and just love themselves. I wouldn’t know how it is as a kid. I couldn’t imagine because I started when I was 17/18 and I ended up having an eating disorder even at 18. I think it’s a rough, rough world and you need to be careful.
Independent Philly: Tell us something about yourself that would surprise or even shock our readers.
Cassie Angst: I’m half Italian so I can eat an entire box of pasta in one sitting (laughs) but I can’t do it right now. Living without pasta is a terrible, terrible world.
Independent Philly: Hopefully the day will come again soon where you can indulge in a big, hearty bowl of pasta.
Cassie Angst: (laughs) I’m sooo excited!
We want to wish Miss Pennsylvania USA the best of luck and we’ll be pulling for her on May 14th as she competes for the crown of Miss USA in Las Vegas, NV!