A self-described shy tomboy in high school, Lauren Vizza developed confidence competing in beauty pageants once she enrolled at Louisiana Tech University. That confidence got tested on more than just pageant runways.
Just a month before her reign as 2012 Miss Louisiana was to come to an end, Vizza rappelled down the 24-story Capital One Bank building in downtown Baton Rouge on May 30 along with LSU football coach Les Miles, State Police Superintendent Col. Mike Edmonson and Louisiana Family Forum President Gene Mills.
Although Vizza knew she’d be involved in publicizing charitable causes — Louisiana Family Forum sponsored the event to promote the adoption of foster-care eligible children — this wasn’t what she thought she’d signed up for as a beauty queen.
“I’m afraid of heights, so I had no idea,” Vizza said. “But I’m in the mindset that I’m Miss Louisiana once, and it’s completely safe. If Les Miles is doing it, I’m fine. I can do it. He is worth a lot, has a lot to lose. If he’s doing it, I should be OK.”
And so she was. Vizza ended up enjoying the view and conquering a fear.
“It was for a great cause, and it was one of those highlights of the year,” Vizza said.
That year comes to a close on June 29 when the 2013 Miss Louisiana will be crowned in Monroe. For Vizza, in Baton Rouge on Thursday on a farewell media tour, the year was full of experiences that show how far she’s come from her high school days.
Back then, she was a star soccer player who played for the state’s Olympic development program and aspired to one day try out for the national team. Knee injuries eliminated that dream and prevent her from running now.
A friend talked her into entering the Miss Louisiana Tech pageant. She didn’t win, but competed more. She reached the top five her first time competing in the Miss Louisiana Pageant.
“I learned so much about myself,” she said. “I was, like, this is fun. I never did it for the pageant glory. I loved being a voice for something. I loved learning about myself. I think that’s what drove me into it.
“I learned how to speak and how to express my opinion. I learned what my passions were, and over the past few years I’ve gained so much confidence in myself that I didn’t have at all before.”
Vizza used the year to encourage people to volunteer for community service projects and organizations. That was something she started at age 12 in her hometown of Shreveport, working with the Great Riders Equine Assisted Therapy program, establishing a habit she would continue at Louisiana Tech, where she was in charge of philanthropic efforts in her sorority and Tech’s student government.
“The thing that I like to say is find what you like to do and do that and help people that way,” she said. “Not everyone can do the same thing. We all have different gifts or talents.”
Vizza, who was a junior at Louisiana Tech when she became Miss Louisiana, will return this fall to complete her degree in political science and history. She plans to go to law school at LSU or Tulane, and looks forward to a life in politics.
“My dream job is secretary of state,” she said. “That’s my ultimate goal. It will be a really fun road getting there.”