Plainfield teacher to compete for Ms. America crown
By Janet Lundquist firstname.lastname@example.org February 11, 2012 8:20PM
La'Shaun Stallings-Hodge (left), a language arts and social studies teacher at Indian Trail Middle School, works with 8th-grader Megan Fries, 13, (right) during rehearsal for the upcoming I.T. Productions performance of Seussical Junior as seen Thursday, Feb. 9, 2012, at 14723 N. Eastern Ave. in Plainfield. Stallings-Hodge won the title of Ms. Illinois America and will compete for Ms. America in April. | Matthew Grotto~Sun-Times Media
Updated: March 13, 2012 8:11AM
PLAINFIELD — A Plainfield middle school teacher will put on her sash and tiara and head to California this spring to compete for thousands of dollars in prizes in the national Ms. America pageant.
LaShaun Stallings-Hodge, who teaches sixth grade at Indian Trail Middle School and works with its theater club, recently won the title of Ms. Illinois America 2012.
“I wanted to further my acting career and thought this would be a nice stepping stone,” she said.
Stallings-Hodge, 29, of Plainfield has extensive local acting experience, and has appeared in everything from musicals and plays at area colleges, to locally filmed movies as an extra, to music videos and national commercials.
The University of St. Francis graduate has been teaching in the Plainfield School District for seven years.
“She’s a pretty humble person,” said Shannon Miller, Indian Trail assistant principal. “I know she probably has told the kids (about the pageant), but she’s very low key about it.
“She’s our theater director here. She does do a wonderful job with those students,” Miller said. “I think it makes it real for them that she’s using a talent she has.”
Acting skills do come in handy during a pageant, which involves a lot more than showing up and looking beautiful.
Besides the fashion wear, sports wear and evening gown competitions, contestants must prepare for an on stage interview and have poise and stage presence enough for a dance routine.
They also must raise money for an advertising book, which is the most time-consuming task of all.
Stallings-Hodge, who has been contacting local businesses looking for support, found a sponsor in Dunkin Donuts and will make several personal appearances at area stores before the pageant.
Her first appearance is scheduled for a Dunkin Donuts in Bolingbrook later this month, she said.
She was recently invited to attend a pre-Academy Awards party in Hollywood for a charity sponsored by the pageant.
“This is like, things you dream about when you’re an actress, sitting at home watching people going to these events,” she said. “Obviously this party is for charity, but a lot of nominees for the Oscars will be there donating their time and money.”
But, she said, preparing for the pageant isn’t all glitz and glamour and Oscar parties.
“(Many people) don’t know the hard work that goes into it or the reasons behind being in a pageant,” Hodge said. She competed in her first pageant as a way to raise money for college.
She entered and won the Miss Joliet Illinois Top Model contest in 2005.
“I had to work my way through college, so having that extra money helped,” she said. “These women do work really hard. It’s not just everybody who wants to be pretty on stage.”
The Ms. America pageant will be April 15 in Anaheim, Calif.