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Plus-Sized Women: This Pageant's for You

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Habahbeh, who is plus-sized herself, says she was bitten by the acting bug in middle school, where she played the lion in "The Wizard of Oz." She took a few acting classes at Virginia Commonwealth University and in 2002 spent a summer in New York studying the craft and going to auditions every day.

She landed some roles, she says — but she started to see a pattern. "It had nothing to do with developing a character," she says. "It was always about how big that person was. And they always had to eat, or do food things."

Her mood plummeted. And she says she felt her dream getting more difficult to reach. She headed back to Richmond, where she started writing — finished a screenplay — and spent some time in local theater, such as the Living Word Stage Company.

She also started researching plus-sized pageants. She had always been interested in traditional pageants, she says, but her size held her back. When she discovered a pageant for plus-sized women in Florida, she decided to start one here.

She began meeting with lawyers and talking to friends. She found a place for the pageant at the Cultural Arts Center at Glen Allen and locked down a date: April 1, 2005. And this week she's starting to spread the word to potential entrants (in two categories, ages 18-26 and 27-36) and to land sponsors.

She wants people to know: "They don't have to be small to be involved in beauty pageants, or acting. I just want them to feel confident in who they are."

For more information on the pageant, call (804) 852-3082. — Jason Roop

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