Loren Freeman had only worked at Hooters for eight months before she applied and qualified for the Miss Hooters International Pageant.
Freeman, a first-year marketing student at Texas Woman’s University, applied for the pageant after her boss encouraged her and her coworkers to enter it.
“I wasn’t going to because I was very nervous,” Freeman said. “But one day they said, ‘You know, you’re too pretty to not just apply, you never know.’ And I applied and I found out I got in. I was completely surprised and overjoyed.”
The annual swimsuit competition has been held since 1997, flying in Hooters waitresses from across the globe to compete for the title of Miss Hooters International. 2023 will mark the 26th anniversary of the pageant, which is to be held in Las Vegas, Nevada this August.
In order to qualify for the competition in Vegas, Freeman first had to compete in a regional pageant. Although this was her first pageant, she won third place.
“It was a wonderful, wonderful experience,” Freeman said. “The next step is to submit a video of [myself] saying why I want to compete in the pageant, a picture of me in the uniform and a picture of me in the bikini. And a little short bio about myself, and it’ll get sent to the board that chooses all the girls. There’s 26 contestants that go to Vegas. There’s about 100 of us applying, so it’s kind of nerve-wracking.”
Freeman started working at Hooters because of her longtime experience as a waitress and the environment that the restaurant chain offers.
“[I like] getting to interact with all the guests,” Freeman said. “It’s fun working with a bunch of girls. I go to Texas Woman’s, I obviously love female community. And it’s really a fun experience. Definitely fast-paced, but I’ve really enjoyed it. I’m really thankful to be at the store that I’m at because honestly all of us get along and we’re there for each other inside work and outside of work. A lot of us are going through college, so sometimes we’ll meet up and do study groups. The community is really about support and friendship.”
Freeman states that, despite the stereotypes surrounding pageantry and her workplace, the community she has at Hooters is akin to a sisterhood.
“It’s so funny because you’d think that in pageants, everybody’s real mean and catty, but I met some of the nicest women when I competed in this past one,” Freeman said. “We all really were there for each other– eyelash glue, helping with the heels, someone’s crying because they’re nervous. We all really just came together to be the best version of ourselves, and there was so much support in that room. I really could feel it, and that’s what this whole thing is about for me really.”
Advocacy and dispelling these preconceptions are at the forefront of Freeman’s plans if she becomes the next Miss Hooters International.
“I really want to use my voice to advocate for women’s rights and women’s respect in the workplace, things like that,” Freeman said. “I want to travel because, if you win, you get to go around and do meet and greets with charities, things like that. I want to be a face of Hooters that’s not just the stereotype of a ditzy blonde.”
Featured illustration by Stephanie Vo
Jocelyn Truong can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.