SOUTH HOLLAND | The village's own Brittany Middlebrooks will compete for the title of Miss United States on July 6 at the Sphinx Club in Washington D.C.
Middlebrooks, 22, captured the Miss Illinois United States crown on April 12 in Northbrook.
"That was an exciting day," she said.
Following on stage presentations including the swimsuit and evening gown portions of the pageant, Middlebrooks was asked what one message she would convey throughout her reign.
She responded by sharing her life's motto.
"Feel the fear and do it anyway," she said. "So no matter what anxiety, what adversity you're facing, you can overcome it and you can push through it and achieve your goals."
That answer seemed to propel her to the state title, which now has her in line to compete against contestants from each of the 50 states, as well as Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and Washington D.C.
Middlebrooks has past experience in pageants, having participated previously in the Miss Illinois USA pageant, in which she won the best interview award in 2011.
While both the Miss United States and Miss USA competitions are beauty pageants, Middlebrooks is much more than just a pretty face.
She graduated on June 15 from DePaul University with a degree in public relations and advertising, with a minor in hospitality.
She hopes to run her own public relations firm in the future.
If Middlebrooks wins the Miss United States title, she will tour the country and promote the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life events.
She plans to use her platform to champion various other causes, including mental health awareness and the learning of multiple languages in schools, including sign language, which she has studied for about four years.
She planned a pageant night recently for children at the Ronald McDonald House on Grand Avenue in Chicago and plans to make monthly visits.
Middlebrooks is proud to represent her home town of South Holland, where she grew up with her parents, Phillip and Paula, and her fraternal twin sister, Brionna.
"I think Illinois has a fighting chance this year because I have that spirit and that attitude," said Brittany, a 2010 Thornwood High School graduate.
Her Chicago-based pageant coach, Derrick Lee, agrees with Brittany's assessment.
The two have worked together for about a year to refine her stage presence and interactions with the media.
"And with her degree in public relations, she catches on very fast," Lee said.
He describes Brittany as a "ball of energy" with a great personality and thinks her exotic looks and strong interviewing skills should serve her well at the pageant in the nation's capital.
Besides training for pageants and working out at the health club at which she is also employed, Brittany has a number of other outside interests, including sewing, crocheting and "thrifting."
"I thrift all of the time," she said. "I'm really into antiquey, old-type things."
Baking is another of her favorite pastimes.
"I love to eat, so I have to know how to cook right," she said.
Middlebrooks has a goal of raising $5,000 by July 1 to help cover travel, lodging and wardrobe expenses related to her upcoming trip to Washington D.C.
Those who wish to contribute to her efforts can visit www.gofundme.com/missIllinoisunitedstates