Miss America? Burps can't stop her victory

Even though we all prance around in front of the mirror every once in a while, most of us feel sort of ridiculous doing it. Erika Uhlig, however, has managed to parlay her prances into a thousand bucks toward college.

The 16-year-old Albemarle resident is arguably on her way to becoming Miss America. With the title of Miss Teen Albemarle County Fair already under her belt, Uhlig traveled to Roanoke on June 27 for the Miss Teen Virginia America pageant, a local preliminary that includes evening gown and interview segments but eschews the dreaded swimsuit promenade.

"Since we're not old, they give us leotards," she says, lambasting the "Physical Fitness" competition used in place of the Jantzens. "They're hideous. They look the same on everybody, and they show every crevice of your body. When the light hits you on stage... oh, it's horrible."

That didn't stop her. Uhlig walked away victorious despite the spandex attempts to do her in. Now, she's slated to compete in Orlando in 2005 for the national title.

And after that? "I could take it to Miss America," she says in a suspiciously singsong voice, "but I might stop after this, because I won. It's better to go out on a high note."

Such nonchalance sums up her approach toward the whole parade she takes the pageants lightly in spite of her success. "I'm kind of a procrastinator," she says. "I don't really work on it all year. I just kind of go and do it. I'd rather not think about it."

As an avid soccer player and a serious violinist, Uhlig has plenty of other things to worry about. She played defense on both the Albemarle High School varsity and club teams last year and intends to do so again this year. Meanwhile, Betty Gross, her violin teacher for over 10 years, positively bubbles with praise.

"She has always been a very wonderful violin student," says Gross. "Audiences always enjoy her playing very much."

Uhlig will undoubtedly try to work that same magic with pageant judges. Rather than attempting to juggle a soccer ball several hundred times on her head, she has opted to play violin for the talent segment.

Divahood apparently runs in the family. Erika's older sister, Jessica, was Miss Albemarle in 2003 and has since started working towards Miss Virginia USA, while her younger sister, Hannah, was a runner up in the Miss Pre-Teen Albemarle County Fair [this is the correct name of this competition; it was misnamed in the print version of this story–editor] competition at the tender age of 12. As the most recent champion, however, Erika notes she is at the top of the pecking order: "Right now, I'm the queen of the house."

Queen or not, she's above all a typical teenager.

"I'm the biggest tomboy you'll ever meet," she admits. "I may dress like a girl, but you'll never meet a girl who burps quite as loud as I do."

Erika Uhlig