She's Miss Ocean City. She's been Miss Harford County. She's worn the Miss Maryland crown -- twice. And this week, she's Miss Preakness.
But the title Kimberlee Suerth of Edgewood longs to win is Miss America.
It's a title the Edgewood High School graduate has sought twice unsuccessfully. Both times she walked away as first runner-up. She hopes the third time is the charm.
Suerth, 22, a senior majoring in public relations at Towson State University, currently has the title of Miss Ocean City. Next month, she will compete in the Miss Maryland Contest in Hagerstown. The winner goes to the Miss America competition in Atlantic City.
"It would be great to win," Suerth mused. "I'dlike to go to grad school. The money would certainly help."
She figures she would garner about $30,000 in scholarships and fees for public appearances as Miss America. Suerth said she would use the moneyto pursue a master's degree in public relations and mass communication at American University, Washington.
In addition to training forthe Miss America program, Suerth was busy last week performing her duties as Miss Preakness. She rode on the Preakness Parade Float, played host at brunches and presented the winning trophies in the Preakness Balloon Race.
She was selected Miss Preakness from 13 finalistsafter a seven-minute interview, in which a panel of judges asked herquestions based from her resume. Suerth received a $1,000 scholarship and a $500 wardrobe from Macy's, the contest's sponsor.
It's scholarships that entice her to enter the contests, Suerth said.
She began competing when she was 15. Her titles include Miss Maryland Co-Ed and Miss Maryland Junior America. She became Miss Maryland in the Miss America program when she was 18.
Her sister, Monica Gudaitis,said her sibling is not driven by vanity. Instead, she said, Suerth's desire to perform and entertain stems from the family's theatrical background. Their mother, Nancy, runs her own talent agency.
"Everybody in the family is involved in theatrics," said the 39-year-old Gudaitis, who also has competed in beauty pageants. "Our sister in Florida is a champion ballroom dancer. My brother and I taught ballroom dancing."
The scholarships, Suerth said, helped her get through college. Last semester, she earned a 4.0 grade-point average and is just one credit short of graduation. And she just completed a public relations internship with the Washington Capitals hockey team.
"It was intensive," she said. "I love ice hockey. There's a lot of high energy."
Suerth, one of four children from what she describes as an "artistic" family, said one of her dreams is to produce and choreograph her own miniature roller skating show -- a show she would take to small night clubs across the country. Some day.
For now, though, she is concentrating on so-called beauty contests, which she maintains involve more than just physical beauty.
The Miss America program, for instance, emphasizes talent and intelligence, noted Suerth. As a contestant, Suerth said she has to be prepared to answer questions ranging from "How could we best solve the economic recession?" to "What's your favorite color?"
To prepare herself, Suerth said she readstwo daily newspapers every day. She also watches CNN regularly. Because the Miss America program includes a swimsuit and evening gown contest, she works out every day -- running, lifting weights, bicycling or roller skating.
For the contest's talent portion, Suerth performs artistic roller skating. She's been skating since she was 9 and has won the Southeastern Regional Champion title seven times.
Suerthsaid she would like to dispel the myth of beauty contest bimbos. Thecontests, she said, are a lot of work, and most contestants have polished resumes. Many have hectic schedules and are involved in non-profit organizations and activities.
Suerth is a volunteer for the Baltimore-based Health Education Recourse Organization, a non-profit organization for AIDS patients. She is an AIDS "buddy" and recently helped the organization put together a brochure aimed at informing college students about AIDS.
But she estimates 50 percent of her time is spent preparing for contests. The other 50 percent is spent on her education.
"I make sure to make time for myself. That's important,too," Suerth said. "My family and friends have been 100 percent supportive."