Published on June 19th, 2013 | by NSB Observer0
Tia McDonald – Former Miss Teen Florida, Philanthropist, Student, Model, Journalist
Why I chose Tia:
Tia and I have been working together for almost a year now. With the exception of briefly meeting at Tom Alcorn’s birthday party and a couple of short phone calls, most of our correspondence has been through e-mails. So, when it came to choosing someone for my interview I thought, she is someone I know, but I really don’t.
I knew she was a model and had the opportunity to travel all over the world, but I had no idea that while she went to places like Australia and London, she was still balancing being a full time student, taking up to seven online classes at once while away.
I knew that she was a former Miss Teen Florida, but had no idea that if given one week she had the ability and drive to create a fundraiser so successful it produced over $20,000 in one night.
Tia is only 20-years-old and has already raised over $80,000 for local families in need, she is the founder of Our Shining Stars, a pageant for children with special needs, and she is expected to graduate college in one year from the University of Florida.
I spent the day with her on May 8, 2013.
Q: You have been writing for the Observer longer than I have. When did you start?
A: It was 7 years ago and I was 12 years old. Christie Beu was my vocal coach at the time and was in a well-known group called, the Beu Sisters. They had a performance coming up and I wanted to help get the word out, so I did an interview with her.
Q: So writing came easy to you?
A: It’s funny, because I grew up having major communication problems. I couldn’t even talk until I was six years old, and when I did everything was just babble. I had a really hard time throughout school because I couldn’t pronounce common words properly. But, I really enjoyed seeing a blank piece of paper and letting my mind all out. It has always been a release for me.
Even though I had a hard time speaking, I always loved to write. Writing and actually having my work published was something I was really proud of. It was a cool opportunity too because from a young age, I was able to meet and interview celebrities, which actually really helped me prepare for my pageants.
Q: When was your first pageant?
A: I was a baby. I have been in pageants my entire life.
Q: Would you want your child to follow in your footsteps and be in pageants?
A: If I have a girl, I think it would be great if she wanted to do pageants growing up. There are a lot of important skills young women can learn through pageantry. But it is extremely expensive and almost impossible to do them forever and not have a job. So, I would make sure she knows how important school is to have a successful future.
Q: Tell me about UF? Do you love it?
A: I wasn’t prepared to move to Gainesville, that’s for sure. I applied right at the deadline and was accepted before I had even been on campus. I moved into my dorm, registered for courses and started my first class all in the same day. I wasn’t really ready for it, but it jump started me into adulthood. It is the beginning of a new chapter in my life.
Q: Let’s talk about where you see yourself in the future. Is it more of a businesswoman or model?
A: People ask me that a lot. I really don’t know because I love modeling and it has opened up some amazing doors for me so far. If I can balance both sides then that’s what I want.
Q: What do you do on your day off?
A: When I am home, it’s always nice to spend time with my friends, go to the beach and just relax.
Q: What is your favorite meal in town?
A: I love Heavenly Café! It’s a ritual with my mom that as soon as I come back to town, no matter what we have planned, we go straight to Heavenly Café and get the Acai Bowl. It is full of granola, honey, acai berries, bananas and frozen yogurt, all of my favorite things. It is so good!
Q: What is your favorite spot on the beach?
A: It depends. Generally on my days off I find myself at the Inlet. I have a lot of friends who surf and I love watching the contests and supporting them.
Q: Where is your favorite place in town to shop?
A: Sei. In fact, almost all of my clothes come from Sei.
Q: What is your favorite memory living here so far?
A: My entire life has been in New Smyrna, so every milestone that I have accomplished has been here. I think it is really cool growing up and graduating here and just being a New Smyrna kid in general. There are so many amazing and talented people who come from here and I am so proud to say NSB is my hometown.
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Photos by Kelsey Arnold