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Respass places in N.C. Pickle Festival Pageant

A Beaufort County woman was named a top finalist last weekend in the 2012 North Carolina Pickle Festival Pageant.

Vicky Bortz Respass, who grew up in Bath, was runner-up in the Mrs. division of the North Carolina Pickle Festival pageant this past weekend. (WDN Photo/Kevin Scott Cutler)

Vicky Bortz Respass, who grew up in Bath, placed as first runner-up in the Mrs. division of the pageant, held Saturday at Mount Olive College in Goldsboro.

“I didn’t even know there were pageants for married people,” said Respass, who wed husband Victore a year and a half ago. “My best friend, Ashley Clayton, told me about it.”

Clayton is a fellow pageant enthusiast, having been crowned Belhaven’s Miss Independence in 2008. Respass was first runner-up in that pageant the same year.

For the Pickle Festival event, contestants were judged in several categories, including onstage question, sportswear, evening gown and talent. Along with finishing as runner-up, Respass, 20, received trophies as most talented, most photogenic and best dressed. In the talent competition, she performed a song and dance routine, belting out “All That Jazz” from the musical “Chicago.”

Respass is no stranger to performing; she had featured roles “The Wizard of Oz” and “Hello, Dolly” while attending Northside High School and Washington High School. She was also active with the Pamlico Playhouse community theater group, appearing onstage at the Washington Civic Center and the Turnage Theater.

While pageants give her a chance to perform, Respass also uses them to raise awareness of scoliosis. It’s a cause near and dear to her. She was diagnosed with the condition at age 11, which led to five surgeries, the most recent performed last summer. A year ago she founded a support group for other scoliosis patients, dubbing it Curvy Girls.

“Nobody really knows a lot about it. … I want to make scoliosis a common term in every household,” Respass said of her Curvy Girls mission. “I hope kids who are going through it won’t feel alone and feel like they have to hide it.”

According to Respass, such celebrities as Liza Minnelli and Elizabeth Taylor were diagnosed with scoliosis, and they’ve become role models to her.

“So many people with scoliosis live successful lives; they just have to tweak things in their lives,” she said. “They still manage to persevere and they know it will get better.”

Respass said she had to do a bit of “tweaking” in her own life after her diagnosis nearly a decade ago.

“I always wanted to be a professional ballerina,” she recalled. “I was taking dance lessons here with Janet Cox (owner of Washington’s Le Moulin de Danse studio), and after I was diagnosed, I still took classes, but I decided to focus more on acting and singing, too.”

In February, Respass and her husband moved to Wilmington to pursue opportunities in acting, music and modeling. She has since become involved in community theater, and she was cast as an extra in the series finale of the popular television series “One Tree Hill.” She also found work in an independent film project titled “Heart of the Country.” The couple plan to enroll in Cape Fear Community College this summer, then transfer to UNC-Wilmington.

She isn’t ruling out entering more pageants, especially those that provide her a platform to spread the word about scoliosis.

“Right now, I’m focusing on school, acting and married life,” Respass said with a smile. “And I’m hoping to start Curvy Girls in Wilmington.”

Elizabeth Harris, another Beaufort County resident, finished as runner-up in the Miss division of last weekend’s Pickle Festival Pageant. She will compete in this summer’s Princess of North Carolina Pageant. Harris’ pageant activities and her community service work will be the focus of a Washington Daily News feature story later this spring.