By MARTA HEPLER DRAHOS
TRAVERSE CITY — Hannah Burdek and Anna Wheatley have different professional goals, but they're taking the same path to reach them.
The Traverse City residents planned to compete in the Miss Michigan USA and Miss Michigan Teen USA 2013 pageant Friday and Saturday in Port Huron.
Burdek, 22, is a model, Northwestern Michigan College business student and a fashion stylist and blogger at Ella's Fashions and Furnishings in downtown Traverse City. Wheatley, 17, is a senior honors student at St. Francis High School and the Manufacturing Technology Academy.
Both say they entered the pageant mostly for the scholarship opportunities.
"I really want to work in the fashion and entertainment industries," said Burdek, a 2008 Traverse City Central High School alum. "As Miss Michigan I would have the opportunity to travel to New York and Las Vegas with the pageant, and to connect with a lot of professionals in the fashion and entertainment industries — and a lot of modeling opportunities. Also, I would like to finish my degree and my bachelors, and the scholarship would allow me to do that."
Participation in the pageant doesn't come cheap. Burdek said she had to have a red cocktail dress for the opening number, an interview dress and a bikini, among other costumes.
"I'm most excited about my evening gown," said the 5-foot-11-inch natural blonde, who selected a long-sleeved ivory gown with gold beading from celebrity designer Mac Duggal Couture. "It's very classy and regal and it's kind of a vintage feel. It kind of makes me feel like a lady. I was really lucky to have sponsors to have funds to get that dress. They can run anywhere from a grand to four grand."
Burdek said she worked extra jobs with her dad's catering company this summer to help pay for the pageant, which everyone from her mother and grandmother to family friends planned to attend.
To get in shape, she trained six days a week at a local gym and paid extra attention to her already healthful diet. She also received pageant coaching from a former Miss Michigan, now a Detroit-area image consultant.
But one thing Burdek wouldn't do is tan.
"I have to do a bottle tan so it's been quite an adventure to figure out which bottle tan won't turn me orange," said the fair-skinned beauty, who guards against sunburn while competing in local races like the Bayshore 10K and the 5K Zombie Run.
In entering the pageant Wheatley followed in the footsteps of her older sister, Amanda, who made it to the Miss Teen USA semi-finals several years ago.
"I'm super-excited," said Wheatley, a soccer player, member of her school's dance team and an active student club participant. "It's a lot more intense than I expected, but that also makes it a lot more exciting. It's not just a rinky-dinky pageant. It's definitely a full-blown thing."
Besides offering the potential for scholarships, which could help her study biomedical engineering at college, Wheatley said the pageant teaches confidence and personal growth. Even if she doesn't win, she'll have a special dress — bright orange, with beading around the sweetheart neckline — to wear to the spring prom.
Still, she said she's a bit nervous about the fitness swimsuit competition, which she planned to get through with the help of her musical theater training.
"I can put myself in a character so I'm more comfortable," she said.
The winners of the pageant will go on to the Miss USA and Miss Teen USA competitions, joint ventures of Donald J. Trump and NBC Universal, in June and July. Those pageants are produced by the Miss Universe Organization, which began in 1952 as a "bathing beauty" competition spearheaded by Catalina Swimwear in Long Beach, Calif.
Win or lose, Burdek said she's excited to finally see all her hard work come to completion.
"I love nachos and I can't wait to have a big plate of nachos when this is over," she said.