Miss Southeastern continues her journey

Photo by Randy Bergeron

Imagine being in a crowded auditorium under hot spotlights. The pressure is escalating as each passing second feels like an eternity. The results which have the power to drastically alter a life are just out of reach on a tiny index card. Gabrielle Palma, 19, found herself in a situation just like this before being crowned Miss Southeastern.

Nervous energy ran high for the veteran pageant queen, who was seeking her second Miss title. Winning the title of Miss Southeastern had been a goal of Palma’s since her freshman year at Southeastern Louisiana University.  Palma recalls being anxious and feeling that all of her preparation would either pay off or it was time to start over again.

Palma and the runner-up were the last two standing hand in hand in their ornate gowns waiting to hear their fate. Palma, now a sophomore, remained collected until her name was announced.  “I was extremely excited and I think I almost broke her hand,” Palma said of her reaction to the win.  All of the long hours of practice and the hard work paid had finally paid off. “It was like time had stopped. I was so overwhelmed,” Palma said.

Palma had groomed her entire life for that moment.  Palma, who grew up in Mandeville, La., took dance lessons for 18 years and achieved academic success before the win. She is a part of several organizations including Gamma Beta Phi Sorority and the National Society for Collegiate Scholars.

Palma, who is the older sister of five brothers, saw her win as a way to bring honor to her name. Palma describes her family as the source of her strength. “When you have people supporting you it makes you want to work 10 times harder,” Palma said of her support system. She is also happily taking on the challenge of representing the university as a whole.

Palma, reliving the moment, shed light on what this victory truly meant to her. It was not only the accomplishment of her goal, but the beginning of her legacy.  Since the win, Palma has been trying to come to terms with it. “This win was surreal.” Palma said.

Palma’s life has greatly changed. She went from shopping and making YouTube videos to doing interviews and attending meetings. Palma constantly gets recognized everywhere she goes. “My name isn’t Gabi anymore; it’s Miss Southeastern,” she said lightheartedly.

Palma maintains the idea that she is just like everyone else. Though Palma is now the title holder, she has resolved to remain unchanged.   Despite all the chaos, Palma has found a good balance between both lives. “I live by my agenda. School comes first. I try to give everything 100 percent,” said Palma. Palma sees herself as being a normal teenager, who still has big dreams. “I would like to graduate with honors and eventually become a news anchor for MSNBC,” Palma said.

Although Palma is small in stature, she has a big heart. She is eager to begin fulfilling her duties as Miss Southeastern. She would like to help as many people as possible during her reign. Palma, who previously won the title of Miss City of Pineville, had advice, which she believed helped her dreams come true, for those who wish to follow in her footsteps:  “Dream big and never give up.”

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