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Favorite moments with Miss USA

2015 Miss USA Two days after the Miss USA pageant and I am just recovering from all the activities and pageant. I can only imagine what Olivia Jordan, the 2015 Miss USA is feeling. I am sure she is on a high still as she is hitting press week! I wish her the best of luck this year and I know she will do great representing this country.

This has been another great experience for me as I worked with five great women who love social media and sharing info with the world.

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On July 12, the night of the pageant, #KrewedeCrown was trending in Baton Rouge. That is pretty exciting.

 

So as my closing to this experience I decided to share my top three favorite moments of covering the Miss USA organization as they experienced Baton Rouge for two weeks.

Learning about Marty J’s, a new restaurant on Nicholson Drive. I definitely will be going back for dinner! This event was nice because I got to speak with the now former Miss USA, Nia Sanchez. I also got to see behind the scene production of the Miss USA crew filming Sanchez serving customers in the restaurant.

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IMG_1581 - CopyAttending the Farmer’s Market with a few of the ladies. It was great to see the people of Baton Rouge experience the Miss USA contestants during their normal Saturday outing. It was cute seeing the kids running up to take photos. And even a young boy smiling as he handed American flags to the ladies.

IMG_1878Being in the audience of Dress Rehearsal. Last year while covering the pageant I did not attend the dress rehearsal the morning of the pageant. When given the opportunity this year I said why not. They run through the whole show even randomly selecting 15 finalist, the top five and runner up. The winner of dress rehearsal was Lou, a member of the production team, and she was the did great! Have to admit I was going back and forth whether this was real or not, as far as the finalist of the ladies.  Of course it wasn’t but I was sad come pageant time when Miss California, 1st runner up in rehearsal, wasn’t even chosen in the top 15 finalist. I could only imagine what the feeling would be like to get that far in rehearsal but not in real life. Rollercoaster of emotions!

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Lou and Miss California practicing the announcement of the winner during dress rehearsal.

Overall again, this experience was great! Thank you to Visit Baton Rouge, The Advocate and the Miss USA Organization for this experience!

Check out our Miss USA Album- #KrewedeCrown Coverage on Facebook for all our great photos!  Thanks for following along Punkins!

Miss USA 2015 Olivia Jordan answers THAT Donald Trump question at the post-pageant press conference

Immediately following her crowning, the new Miss USA 2015, Olivia Jordan of Oklahoma, headed upstairs where members of the media, including the Krewe de Crown, were waiting to capture the titleholder’s first press appearance.

After a few light-hearted icebreaker questions and photo opportunities, the elephant in the room was finally addressed. An unidentified reporter asked Olivia how she felt about part-Miss Universe Organization owner, Donald Trump’s, comments on the presidential campaign trail toward immigration and the Latin community, and whether she felt he was still a good fit for the Miss Universe Organization.

Miss USA 2015, Olivia Jordan, responded:

“I think that we have freedom of speech in this country and that’s a beautiful right. It helps us draw attention to issues that are important, and immigration is certainly an important issue in this country, and I think we can all agree on that. This organization is not one person, it’s definitely not just me, and its not just one leader. It is a family, there are many people working together. This organization certainly celebrates diversity and I think that was very clear on stage tonight. And I look forward to being a part of this brand and a part of working forward to spread a message of love, diversity and acceptance.”

Listen to her full response below:

 

With an answer that flawless after coming off one of the most adrenaline-filled nights in her life, we have no doubt Olivia will be a fantastic representative as Miss USA 2015.

Advocate Staff Photo by PATRICK DENNIS

O.K. All The Way! Olivia Jordan takes home the 2015 Miss USA crown

In an eventful evening of competition, Miss Oklahoma, Olivia Jordan, was crowned Miss USA 2015 at the Baton Rouge River Center.

Advocate Staff Photo by PATRICK DENNIS

Advocate Staff Photo by PATRICK DENNIS

When the lights first dimmed and the top 15 was called to include her name, the Krewe de Crown quickly realized we were sitting right behind nearly 40 of Miss Oklahoma’s family and friends. Our section erupted in joy and shook with fans in hot pink jumping up and down.

Instagram.com/ericakays

Instagram.com/ericakays

The color hot pink, an ode to Miss Oklahoma’s evening gown choice, stood out in the stands and on the stage. But only 10 girls even make it to that point in the competition. Within minutes of the live telecast, 51 girls are narrowed down to just 15 who move on to the swimwear event, predetermined by their performance in the preliminary competition earlier in the week. To even make it to the top 15 out of all the incredible women is an enormous feat, and Olivia’s parents seemed ecstatic they would get to witness her battle for the crown live.

Advocate Staff Photo by PATRICK DENNIS

Advocate Staff Photo by PATRICK DENNIS

After owning the runway in the bikini portion of the pageant, Olivia sailed through to the top 10 and took to the stage in her hot pink Sherri Hill gown. There was no doubt she looked stunning as she glided around with grace and poise. We later learned from her family that Olivia Jordan is no stranger to the crown, and this is not the first time she’s competed for our nation. Olivia was chosen to represent the United States at the Miss World Competition in Indonesia, and even placed in the top 20. This will make her the first person from the United States to compete at two major international beauty pageants, Miss World 2013 and Miss Universe 2015.

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Each round Miss Oklahoma advanced, our hot pink section broke out in cheer and we soon found it hard to not absorb their glee and anticipation to hear her name called.

In her contestant interview prior to the pageant, Miss Oklahoma spoke of what her family’s support means to her.

“When I know that they are there supporting me, I just smile bigger and I walk taller. Their philosophy our entire life has been ‘go after everything, you can do anything.’ I don’t think any of them thought that I was going to choose pageants, but I think now we’re all grateful that I did.”

Olivia’s father beamed with pride as she was announced as a top 5 finalist, and then a hush fell over the River Center for what was next to come. The infamous question round. The true test of knowledge of current issues, performance under pressure and public speaking.

No matter how much one practices and studies, and then practices even more, when that judge’s question is read and the microphone extended to them, it truly becomes anyone’s game. With a history of challenging questions, including Miss Louisiana 2014 Brittany Guidry’s last year, this is the round that makes or breaks contestants. And called first was Miss Oklahoma, Olivia Jordan. Her family locked hands and took deep breaths as former Miss USA/Miss Universe Brook Lee read her question:

“The Confederate flag, excessive force by police and same-sex marriage are all recent, hot-button issues in our country. What do you think will be the next that we need to tackle on a national level?”

At this point there was not a stomach in the room not in knots and awe at starting off with such an intense and controversial question.

Olivia articulately responded:

“I think we still need to talk about race relations in this country. We have not solved this issue. We are still having problems and we keep hearing about new issues that are coming up. We really need to work on being an accepting society and being a society where every single person, no matter your race, no matter your gender, is given the same rights and privileges and opportunities.”

The crowd applauded her answer and one of her family members turned around to the Krewe de Crown as we exclaimed in unison, “nailed it!”

Unfortunately, that was the end for perfect answers. Crowd favorites Rhode Island and Nevada both struggled to answer their equally challenging questions.

Miss Oklahoma, Olivia Jordan, also elegantly answered the final question, randomly selected from fan submissions and asked to each of the top 5 contestants.

It was then time for all 51 contestants to return to the stage for the crowning moment. One by one, the runner-ups were called, and with each name that wasn’t Miss Oklahoma’s, her family and friends’ eyes grew wider. Before we knew it, just Miss Oklahoma and Miss Texas, Ylianna Guerra, remained, standing in each other’s arms knowing one of their lives were about to change forever. Our entire section, who at this point had all been recruited to #TeamOklahoma thanks to her family and friends’ infectious love and positive energy, rose to their feet.

Advocate Staff Photo by PATRICK DENNIS

Advocate Staff Photo by PATRICK DENNIS

After what felt like a lifetime of building up the suspenseful moment, Miss Oklahoma 2015, Olivia Jordan, was announced as the new Miss USA 2015. Being right behind her support team in that moment was absolutely indescribable. Witnessing the roller coaster of emotions from nerves to suspense, shock to realization, then to pure jubilation, pride and relief, was beautiful.

 

Advocate Staff Photo by PATRICK DENNIS

Advocate Staff Photo by PATRICK DENNIS

The Krewe de Crown extends a huge congratulations to Miss USA 2015, Olivia Jordan. May your reign be wonderful and best of luck at Miss Universe 2015!

Instagram.com/ericakays

Instagram.com/ericakays

Watch the full video of Olivia Jordan’s crowning moment and her family’s reaction below.

Miss USA 2015 Olivia Jordan’s Family Reaction to Crowning Moment

 

 

Erica Sweeney, 2015 Krewe de Crown member.

Contestants

#BeMoreThanPretty

The #BeMoreThanPretty campaign was designed to break stereotypes surrounding women and girls who compete in pageants. The campaign gives all Miss USA and Miss Universe contestants the opportunity to highlight different aspects of their lives outside of pageantry. Most people assume these young women are all the same, that their main focus is to fulfill a materialistic dream. After spending the past week and a half with the 51 contestants I can honestly say the Miss USA class of 2015 is determined to break those stereotypes.

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“Only simplicity and the truth count. It has to come from inside. You can’t fake it.”

The main stereotype surrounding pageant queens is that being outwardly beautiful is the most important aspect. However, many contestants I spoke to couldn’t disagree more. “You could be the most physically attractive person in the world, but if you don’t have a good heart and if you’re not a good person then you aren’t that good looking after all,” Miss Texas said.

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To break that stereotype, Miss Florida, Ashleigh Lollie, believes being the modern-American woman is beautiful. “I think being more than pretty means challenging yourself, being adventurous, having an education and then getting a job,” Lollie said. Being a lawyer and getting her pilot’s license are two ways Lollie is breaking gender stereotypes and really becoming the modern-American woman.

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Miss Louisiana, Candice Bennatt, believes that being beautiful means being confident. One way Bennatt has found her own self-confidence is by taking risks, and she hopes to encourage young women to take more risks. “It’s all about learning. We’re destined to fail sometimes and you can’t always win, but you can always learn,” Bennatt said. “So take that risk, put one foot in front of another and give it a try.”

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Miss Alaska, Kimberly Agron, believes being pretty comes from within. Through her experiences she has found that self-reflection is key to truly finding inner beauty. Agron’s advice to young girls struggling with beauty issues is to truly reflect on what they love about themselves, and to be confident in what they find.

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“If you’re feeling down about yourself, seriously sit down and write out things you like about yourself or things you liked about your day,” Agron said. “For me, I had to decide that I’m going to be positive about every interaction that I make and I’m going to find beauty in others, and then find beauty in myself.”

The Miss USA Sisterhood

One way this Miss USA class is breaking stereotypes is how they interact and treat one another. Most of the contestants have bonds outside of their days spent in Baton Rouge, and have even been supporting each other for a few years now.

I spoke with Miss Nevada, Brittany McGowan, about her friendship with Miss Pennsylvania, Elizabeth Cardillo. The two have been friends for quite some time now, and McGowan even called Cardillo the night she won Miss Pennsylvania to see if she would room with her in Baton Rouge.

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“We pump each other up every single day,” McGowan said. “When one of us is feeling down or unsure, unsure is probably the best word because it’s impossible to feel completely sure of yourself all of the time, we know we’re not alone. It means the world to have someone to share those feelings with and who understands those feelings.”

Miss Rhode Island, Anea Garcia, spoke of a similar instance with Miss Oregon, Bridget Wilmes, a woman she was not close with until spending the week together in Baton Rouge. “I was talking to Miss Oregon and she asked me if I like my bathing suit photo and I said yes,” Garcia said. “She responded good, because I like my photo too and we’re all just so beautiful in every single way.” Garcia was inspired by her positivity and her ability lift others spirits while also trying to be “confidently beautiful” about herself.

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The Brainy Bunch

One of the most interesting characteristics about this Miss USA class as a whole is that many of them are breaking boundaries professionally. Out of the seven contestants I interviewed, two contestants, Miss Louisiana and Miss Florida, are currently in law school and Miss New Mexico has two bachelor degrees and a masters degree. Many other contestants have graduated in an array of studies, are currently in school or have already begun successful, professional careers.

Education is key, and something these women, and Miss New Mexico, Alexis Duprey, in particular, take very serious. “My mom always told me that education is the one thing that no one can ever take away from you,” Duprey said. “I am absolutely confident that the investment in education is well worth it and I think an intelligent, well-spoken and well-versed woman is just priceless.”

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The Power of One

Some of the most impactful moments I’ve experienced through my coverage have been catching small glimpses into each contestants’ personal lives and stories. One of these moments occurred when I asked Miss Nevada, Brittany McGowan, who in her life truly exemplifies being pretty. For a moment she just sat to herself and smiled; I could tell that she was thinking of someone special.

“It’s funny, I know that when you think of beauty you automatically think of women,” McGowan said. “But the first person that I immediately thought of, that has a really beautiful soul, is my little brother.” She views his honesty, bravery and strong morals as characteristics that make him beautiful.

Miss Nevada went on to describe being pretty as a feeling you get from someone, or a type of vibe that they radiate. “Beauty to me is something more than what you see, it’s how someone makes you feel,” McGowan said.

#BeMoreThanPretty

Reflecting on my interviews with the women, one thing really stuck out to me, and that is what Miss Florida said about being the modern-American woman. From my experience covering the Miss USA pageant, and meeting so many diverse women, I feel as though I have a better understanding of what the modern-American woman looks, feels and acts like. As far as anyone can see she is strong, intelligent, independent, beautiful and caring. Dig a little deeper and you will find that she is unapologetically confident in her own skin, ambitious to a point of exhaustion to achieve her goals, genuinely concerned with the well being of others and willing and able to be the positive role model that so many young girls long for.

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In the less than 24 hours a new Miss USA will be crowned. I can’t begin to imagine how nervous, anxious and excited the contestants are feeling. However, win or lose, the women I have had the pleasure of meeting and getting to know will continue to break stereotypes, be an inspiration to women everywhere and strive every day to #BeMoreThanPretty.

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Down in the Swamps, it’s Miss USA 2015

Swamp: an area of low-lying, uncultivated ground where water collects.

How many Miss USA contestants do you think have ever seen a real swamp? I mean a mossy tree filled, crawfish trap covered, alligator bed. I would assume, not many.

Well, that has all changed since these 51 beauties touched down in the red stick. Many contestants had the pleasure of going on a swamp tour in Henderson, Louisiana during their visit here.

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Ending the swamp tour with live Cajun music from the Jamie Bergeron band was just the perfect addition. It. Was. Amazing.

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Chelsey-Blog3-Image9To my surprise, when attending the preliminary competition on Wednesday, July 8 at the Baton Rouge RiverCenter, the theme for the stage had a similar feeling, except a bit more glamorous.

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So I’ll see y’all in the swamps tomorrow night where we’ll learn who the next Miss USA is! Here’s how you can watch it locally:

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The Teen Queens

On Friday, July 10, Baton Rouge received a boost of energy. The 2015 Miss Teen USA contestants arrived to cheer on the Miss USA contestants, but before the pageant on Sunday, they stopped by the Mall of Cortana and the Mall of Louisiana to greet some little queens.

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The event was full of smiles, selfies and songs as contestants sported their Chinese Laundry shoes with effortless glam. Two lucky contestants were able to score a pair of these high heels, as the little onlookers had a chance to be wooed by the beauty of each contestant.

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See more coverage of this and other 2015 Miss USA events by following the #KrewedeCrown, #GoBR, and #Fig8PR hashtags.

Quick Questions

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On Saturday at the Passing of the Flag event downtown Baton Rouge I decided to ask Miss Missouri, Rebecca Dunn and Miss Delaware, Renee Bull, five quick questions for some  fun  facts about the two.

They were gracious enough to pause from signing shirts for my Quick Questions interview.

Check both videos below!

Kicking off the 4th of July with Miss USA contestants

coverThis past weekend I had the opportunity to tag along with a few of the Miss USA contestants to some new (to me) and favorite places within Baton Rouge. This weekend was the final weekend of touring the city before it is down to business with preparations for the pageant on Sunday, July 12.

So as always Krewe de Crown divided up the coverage of the events. My weekend with the ladies started Friday, July 3 with a trip to Charlie’s Place, located on North Blvd. Charlie’s Place is a local resource for Alzheimer’s education and support.

IMG_1308 - CopyThe ladies had the chance to meet some of the clients of Charlie’s Place while enjoying tea time with them and the staff. The staff prepared sashes and crowns for the clients and the contestants had the chance to crown the clients as Mrs. or Mr. (insert their home parish). They also had a Louisiana trivia game which the ladies from the other states did pretty well with the trivia.

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Moving into the conference room where a lovely set up for tea was displayed, the ladies helped crown the clients of Charlie’s Place before sitting down for tea.

I thought it was interesting that there was a little tea history as everyone was sipping on their tea and eating their tiny sandwiches. I loved that Miss California, Natasha Martinez, shared a childhood story about having tea with her mother at the Huntington Beach Library in Southern California near her hometown.

Press Play

On Saturday a few of the ladies woke up early for the Red Stick Farmer’s Market to “shop” fresh with the locals. The ladies were filmed riding bikes on the streets of downtown, walking 5th street of the Farmer’s Market and taking photos with a few kids walking around.

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Down by the USS Kidd a few of the ladies participated in the 6th Annual “Passing of the Flag” ceremony with Mayor Kip Holden, WAFB Ch. 9’s Jay Grymes as the emcee, and United States Senator for Louisiana David Vitter was present. IMG_1721

If you have never attended the Nation of Patriots’ “Passing the Flag” on the 4th of July you need to. The event is part of the nation-wide Patriot Tour. The Harley Davidson of Baton Rouge motorcyclists gathered down by the Rivercenter for the ceremony, at the end they traveled with the flag down to Scott, Louisiana. Members of each branch of military were there and a nice size crowd was there to support veterans. This year was special too because the Miss USA contestants were present.

WAFB's Jay Grymes and Mayor Kip Holden.

WAFB’s Jay Grymes and Mayor Kip Holden.

Prior to the ceremony the ladies helped sale t-shirts and donuts for donations for the veterans. They even signed the shirts.IMG_1613 - Copy

Baton Rouge has not had a Fourth like this. This is sure to be one of the best Baton Rouge has seen yet!

 

Move In Majesty

Majesty Move In

The moment a young lady is crowned Miss Louisiana USA, she enters a sisterhood that lasts a lifetime. It’s like a sorority with the crown as a symbol, with your platform as your charity, with outfit organizing as the social, and with former queens fulfilling the role of big sisters.

It’s actually one of the main things that caught my attention as I heard about the big move in day for Miss Louisiana USA, Candice Bennatt. She certainly did not arrive alone, having four suitcases and two duffels full of necessities. But more importantly, she arrived with two sisters, two former titleholders that made history throughout their reigns, Miss Louisiana 2013 – Kirsten Girault, and Miss Louisiana 2014 – Brittany Guidry.

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Since Bennatt’s crowning moment in October, Girault and Guidry gained a best friend and did not even think twice when it came to helping Bennatt prepare for the national competition.

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“Being a former Miss LA USA, I knew I was going to try and help Candice throughout her reign with whatever I possibly could, and that definitely included her preparation for Miss USA. I like to think that being a titleholder from Louisiana means you are a part of a sisterhood like no other. Candice and I have become so close over this past year. When she asked Brittany and I in early June to help move her into L’Auberge, I didn’t even have to think twice about it. I wanted her to go into Miss USA with as little stress as possible and to feel completely prepared. I knew with the help of Brittany and myself that could definitely be accomplished. Plus considering New Orleans is only an hour outside of Baton Rouge, I knew Candice would enjoy a fun car ride with her girlfriends before having to get into competition mode,” stated Girault.

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Several of the Miss USA contestants arrived on Sunday, June 28, making their stay in the capitol city roughly two weeks long. Can you imagine having to pack for two weeks? Much less having to look like a superstar the entire time.

Guidry has helped Bennatt with several aspects of the competition as she is part owner in Empowering Crowns with another former Miss Louisiana USA (2008), Michelle Berthelot West.

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“We know how much stress our girls have just sending them off to state level pageants, much less a national pageant. Their appearance dresses need to be altered, they need to decide which shoe and earrings go best with the outfit, but it’s not all about wardrobe… you are living in a hotel for two weeks. You have to bring a lot more than you think,” said Guidry.

The experienced preparation and packing isn’t the only thing Candice has working for her. The pageant being held right in her home state has its advantages as well.

Guidry stated, “You can bring all you need because you are not trying to fit it in to your luggage and having to worry about a shopping expense or checked bag expense. Also, I know I always break out with the stress of traveling so I know Candice definitely has the advantage of being here. I don’t know if the other contestants can ever fully prepare for the amount of humidity we have down here.  It shocked a lot of contestants last year but a little tip for them…use less hairspray with humidity.”

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So with two best friends, several bags, and a honorable sash in tow, I had to ask, “What is one thing that is packed that people would be surprised by?”

Girault stated, “The one thing we did pack was an endless supply of ‘Slap Ya Mama’ seasoning for all the contestants to take home. To be honest, I think it is what we didn’t pack that is more surprising; and that would be self-tanner!”

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After several days in the capitol city, numerous memories made, and a taste of Louisiana seasoning to bring back home, the girls get to take the stage tomorrow night. The preliminary competition starts at 8:00 p.m. at the Baton Rouge River Center and will be streamed live on www.missusa.com.

 

 

 

Miss USA takes orders at local restaurant!

When you aren’t sure what to order when you visit Marty J’s Restaurant, located at 4001 Nicholson Drive, just order what Miss USA Nia Sanchez ordered.

Yesterday #MissUSA had lunch and helped owner Marty Chabert place orders and carry out food to customers. Imagine walking in for lunch and the beautiful Nia Sanchez was at the register to take your order? No biggie!

Marty’s young grandson ordered crawfish and a diet soda from Miss USA!

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Customers in the restaurant will be part of some of the production for the Miss USA pageant, scheduled for July 12, as the production crew followed Nia around the restaurant while she greeted customers and took photos, including a #selfie with one young man.

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Congressman Garret Graves, Louisiana Sixth Congressional District, also ate lunch at Marty J’s yesterday and took time to grab a photo with Miss USA and Marty.

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Marty J’s is one place you must try in Baton Rouge for all types of Louisiana cuisines. They even have meat pies (the best things ever). Ethan, employee at Marty J’s, said you have to try the roast beef poboy, “especially if you like roast beef because it is nice and sloppy and has the real New Orleans poboy feel.” Ethan also said he loved that Nia came into the restaurant today for lunch because of the crowd and media that came along with her. Not to mention how nice she was.

Before heading out the door I asked Nia what was her favorite food here in Louisiana. This being her second time in Baton Rouge, last year when she was crowned Miss USA and now, she said “I really like the gator! I have to get some more when we go out to our dinner events.”

Photo Courtesy of Visit Baton Rouge!

Photo Courtesy of Visit Baton Rouge!

Marty J’s was just one stop on Nia’s scheduled visits through Baton Rouge yesterday, she also went to visit the kids at Our Lady of the Lake Children’s Hospital.

Marty J’s Restaurant, owned by former State Sen. Marty Chabert, replaced Leroy’s Restaurant after it closed its doors in March. Chabert has another location, Marty J’s, Specialty Meats, Seafood & PoBoys on Perkins Road.

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