Echoe Malone was on her back, her legs extended and hands gripping each side of the workout bench as she struggled to complete the third and final set of 30 leg lifts.
“It hurts,” she said as she took a deep breath “I’m trying to get the energy to bring my legs back up.”
It was only 30 minutes into the hour-long workout session and she was already exhausted. Her body was sore from the repetitions of sit-ups and leg curls and lifts. Physical trainer Joseph Neil, was stern. He pushed Malone past her comfort level and ensured that she completed and properly executed each exercise.
With her stomach and legs burning, Malone finished the leg lifts only to move on to wall sits while holding dumbbells. She was in pain, but she knew she had to continue to better define the muscles in her abdomen and legs.
On Nov. 28 and 29 the 20-year-old will be vying for the title of Miss District of Columbia USA 2010 at the J.W. Marriott Hotel. Even as her schedule becomes more hectic and her training more intense, Malone exhibits a positive attitude and dedication.
Malone must stick to a rigorous workout routine and a healthy diet. With just a month to prepare, it is time for her to buckle down. Saturday evenings she works out with personal trainer Neil in the gym of a suburban apartment complex. He advises her to work out three times a week; limiting the amount of weights and focusing on repetition so that she can tone the muscles in her arms, abdomen, gluteus maximus, and legs without making her 5-foot-6, 122 pound body appear bulky. Neil instructed Malone to eat lean proteins, fruits, vegetables, and to drink plenty of water.
After leaving the training session, an inspired Malone wanted to adhere to the advice, so she decided not to eat the vegetable pizza she had gotten before her session began.
“I want to do this properly,” Malone said. “I don’t want to take away from the progress I make.”
On a typical day Malone looks like any other college student taking the Metro to get to the Howard University campus. Yet, even when she’s in a T-shirt and jeans, people notice Malone and the confidence and enthusiasm she exudes through her bright blue-green eyes and warm smile. A man who noticed the poised Malone, offered her the seat he was about to take in a train car that was nearly empty.
Malone’s weekends are busy. On Fridays, Malone takes the Metro to Silver Spring, Md. where she attends one of several training sessions that fit the theme “If it’s uncomfortable, it’s right.”
From a toned physique to a graceful walk, Malone wants to be flawless. Her mentor, Miss D.C. USA 2008 Chelsea Rodgers is pleased to help her in her quest. One Saturday, for nearly two hours, Malone and Rodgers worked on all aspects of pageantry etiquette in front of the mirror and in the hall of Rodgers’ apartment. They rehearsed the best way to speak, walk, pose, and turn. She instructed Malone to stand up straight with her shoulders back and tighten her abs, glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps, and calves so that she could elegantly display her body.
Rodgers, fully aware that the positions were unfamiliar and uncomfortable to Malone’s body, even threatened to snap Malone with her bracelet if she forgot to contract her muscles while walking. Ultimately, the training will pay off. Rodgers said that as Malone continues to practice, the pose and turn will become effortless.
“There’s a lot of work that goes into it,” Malone said. “And I’m always looking to gain another point.”
Malone knows she must fight through the pain and sweat because it will ultimately make her stronger and a better contestant.
In addition to training with Neil and Rodgers once a week, she is also consulting Miss D.C. USA 2009 Nicole White. On Mondays, White helps Malone prepare for the interview by rehearsing nearly 200 questions and answers. The practice will help Malone become accustomed to the type of questions asked and help her to construct clear and logical responses.
The Miss Universe system, a joint venture of Donald Trump and NBC Universal, acknowledges women for their poise, intellect and humanitarian efforts. Judges score contestants in three categories: the interview, evening wear and swimsuit. The winner of Miss D.C. USA will receive a scholarship, cash prizes and gifts and have an opportunity to promote her platform. Miss D.C., will compete against titleholders of the 50 states for the title of Miss USA. The contestant who wins Miss USA will compete in the Miss Universe pageant.
Malone says she is aware of the negative connotation that some people associate with the name “beauty pageant,” but she wants them to know that there is much more to the competition than just beauty.
“I think it shows a strong work ethic,” Malone said. “The interview highlights one’s intellect and the swimsuit shows one’s fitness. The Miss Universe system is focused on connecting with teens and sending a positive image. It’s about being yourself and being healthy.”
The title would enable Malone to promote her platform of uplifting women and encouraging them to lead healthy and productive lives.
“It would be very, very big for me. It is the stepping stone I need to go forth with my goal of helping women…..I have experienced firsthand what the effects of physical and mental abuse could do to a person,” Malone said. “There is something in me that makes me want to reach out to them and give them support so that they can heal from their traumatic experiences.”
Winning likely would provide a boost to the junior theatre arts major’s, acting career. The winner of Miss D.C. USA receives a partial scholarship to study at the New York Film Academy. Since Malone was in middle school, she has dreamed of attending the film academy. However, the dream has been hard to fulfill as a result of the significant expense.
Malone’s dedication goes far beyond her training. As the first member of her family to attend college, she is committed to excelling academically. She has been on the Dean’s list and has been awarded the Fine Arts Special Talent Scholarship.
As a volunteer, Malone is committed to giving back to the community. She is a spokesperson for the Washington Chiefs Inc., a non-profit organization that provides mentors at a local group home who also visit and area youth detention centers.
Malone is a member of several university organizations and is constantly acting so that she can earn her Screen Actor’s Guild Card. She has been cast in three University student films. She has been an extra in the television show Lincoln Heights and the upcoming movie Iron Man 2. Malone has recently been cast in the principle role of Ruth in a remake of “A Raisin in the Sun,” produced and directed by Howard’s College of Arts and Sciences advisor Shay Thomas.
Malone has had success in a pageant. She won the award for most dedicated in the Miss Colorado Teen USA 2007 pageant that included 51 contestants.
“I was just staying focused. Even though I wasn’t the winner they definitely saw that I was dedicated, and that I took it seriously and wanted to have fun,” Malone said. “And I was a good sport!”
Malone and Rodgers believe that Malone is a strong contender – all her hard work and previous experience will be advantageous in the upcoming competition.
“She is a stunningly beautiful young lady who will grab the judges’ eyes,” Rodgers said. “She has everything inside of her to do well.”
The hardest part of Malone’s effort is obtaining sponsors. Competing is not cheap, particularly on a college student budget. The many expenses total approximately $2,300, and they include: the pageant fee, evening gown, swimsuit, interview suit, shoes, hair and makeup, physical training and transportation.
If you would like to help Malone, send donations to her PayPal account by Nov. 15 at https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr. People interested in providing services may contact her at email@example.com . Supporters can also join her Facebook group called Echoe for Miss D.C. USA.