Not your typical beauty queen

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The Spectrum

Volmy may love wearing heels, donning a beautiful evening gown and dreaming of sparkling crowns, but there's more to pageants than the glitz and glam for this junior exercise science major.

In August, Volmy competed against 250 other young women for the title of Miss New York in the National American Miss competition, and she received the crown.

"I was so shocked when I won," Volmy said. "In all of the photos my mom took of me I'm just crying and overjoyed."

The competition involved participating in an opening number, giving a personal introduction, answering an interview question, performing a talent, showing physical fitness, and demonstrating poise in an evening gown. Contestants are also expected to be involved in their communities and set an example for others.

Volmy has volunteered with Upstate New York Transplant Services, Roswell Park Cancer Institute and the Erie Niagara Area Health and Education Center. Most recently, she has volunteered at Buffalo General Hospital and has been invited to give a speech at the Boys and Girls Club on self-esteem and self-confidence.

"I spend about 10 to 15 hours volunteering a week," Volmy said. "It is possible… to go to college, to have a social life, and to be a pageant girl. With hard work and determination, anything's possible."

Volmy, who has been participating in pageants since she was four years old, disagrees with the pageant culture presented by TV shows such as Toddlers and Tiaras.

"I think it makes little girls grow up too fast, and that's why people have a negative connotation of pageants," Volmy said. "The pageants I participated in encourage contestants to stay in school and do better for ourselves. Beauty fades away and education is something no one can ever take away from you."

Volmy feels that she is prematurely judged when people learn she participates in pageants.

"The pageants I do prepare you for the real world. I show people my beauty, intellect, and set a good example by being involved in the community," Volmy said. "I wish people could understand there are certain pageants I think are bad and others that actually empower young girls to believe in themselves. They're worth it."

Volmy's brother, David, a sophomore occupational therapy major with a specialty in orthopedics, agrees that there is a negative stereotype surrounding pageants.

"I think people believe pageant contestants are dumb and ditzy," David Volmy said. "[My sister] graduated in the top percentile of her graduating class of 2008 with high honors and still manages to maintain an outstanding GPA [at UB]."

Darlene Volmy will be competing in November in Anaheim, Calif. against the other 49 state winners for the title of National American Miss. Volmy's sister, Donna Volmy, a junior occupational therapy major and Miss New York 2008-2009, believes Darlene has what it takes to win.

"What makes my sister stand out during her competitions is her passion for helping others… and her unique personality and confidence within herself," Donna Volmy said.

Darlene Volmy looks forward to her upcoming competition, where she will sing Martina McBride's song "Anyways" for the talent competition.

"I feel so empowered when I sing it," Volmy said. "It tells you despite the obstacles in life, if you believe in yourself you can overcome anything, which is one of the models I live by."