DENVER, CO – Eleanna Livaditis can be excused if her mind has been on next summer while most of the country copes with winter. On the one hand, “we have been pretty blessed with the winter we have had in Colorado.” She is also Miss Colorado USA, and in a few months, most likely late June in Las Vegas, she will be competing in the Miss USA pageant.
Beauty and poise are the most obvious qualities pageant audiences see, but the winners possess other qualities that shine through, both God-given and developed by hard work. Environment plays a critical role, as does family, of course, and in Livaditis’ case, her Greek heritage and Orthodox Christian faith.
And it is not about the glory and glamour. In addition to the tiaras, she received a scholarships valued at $45,000 which she will apply to law school. Her parents would not have it any other way.
Her father, Ilias immigrated when he was 16 and met her mother, Roula, when he went back for a visit – both are from Argos – and when they were married they moved to Colorado Springs, where he opened his sheepskin products business. He runs it with her mother, who also teaches in the Greek school.
Livaditis is the youngest of five children. The eldest, Natassa, who is 12 years older, is the director of her parish Greek school program, “and has four children who also keep her busy.” Next in line is Steven who is a set designer in Chicago, then Eleni who is an office manager in Denver, and finally Vanna lives in Utah and is a public relations executive.
Livaditis agrees there is a nice range of talent there and is proud of them all. “My brother is the most artistic, Vanna the most eloquent, and each of them are leaders.”
Livaditis was born and raised in Centennial, CO, 20 minutes south of downtown Denver, and has lived in the state all her life except when she was attending the University of Wyoming.
Her close-knit family extended into the tight community: “Greek school, dance group, church basketball. It was a good experience.” Her passion was soccer, however, which she played for eight years, and she did a lot of biking.
“Sports were a big thing but Church was also an important part of our lives,” she said.
She competed in the Archdiocese’s St. John’s Oratorical Festival and although she never made it to the nationals, it was helpful. “Any type of public speaking is helpful in all aspects of your life, teaching you to me confident in what you are saying.”
She loves art and listening to music, as well swimming – which she recommends as an ideal exercise and workout.
DREAMING AND WORKING
When she was in high school she wanted to compete for Miss Colorado Teen USA but she didn’t push herself hard enough. Later when she worked in a restaurant a co-worker who had competed strongly encouraged her.
“I decided to enter on a whim, I didn’t have a coach,” as others do.
She finished third in Miss Colorado USA 2013. “I loved it, the whole process. Being onstage is addictive,” she laughed. “I said I’ll try it one more time,” again without coaching, adding, “I just learned from my experiences the first time and made changes I thought necessary.”
She admitted that her parents “weren’t very into it.” Her mother would always say “your beauty is something God gave you. You will do something productive with it, you don’t have to keep parading onstage, but afterwards they were so proud and so excited.”
And she will not lose her focus on family and future. She is preparing for law school and her first choice is the University of Denver.
“In high school I knew I wanted to be a lawyer. I participated in mock trials and I loved it.” She chose criminal justice, consisting of law, corrections, and policing, as a major because she wanted her career to have an active element, but although she found that aspect interesting, the “law side was incredible. I really love it.”
She cares about society and the people around her. Told that from the outside the pageant community seems to combine experiences of extreme competition and intense friendships, she said she learned that “you should not be competing with anyone but yourself…when you compare yourself with others you’ve already lost.”
“The friendships that you make in pageantry will last you a lifetime but I don’t think you will be able to make those friends if you are trying to compete against them,” she said, noting that one can strive to better one’s self without succumbing to jealousy.
Her family and spiritual upbringing has enabled her to focus on inner matters and she sees the pageants as “another journey to self-discovery and to be best person you can be…that is the part I’m most excited about. I don’t think many people go through as an intensive process for learning about themselves to that extent.”
BEAUTY INSIDE AND OUT
The preparation for the big day revolves about the basics of appearance, hair and makeup, and being in shape. “The aesthetics are obviously very important in beauty pageants…You need to look healthy and fit, but the biggest preparation is knowing yourself inside and out, knowing how you are the way you are. In order to do well in these competitions, you have to know exactly what you believe in and what you stand for, how you feel on certain social issues,” she said, maturity shining through.
Self-knowledge has additional elements. She likes history and knows her heritage well.
One of the challenges of the Modern Greek identity is to blend cultures that are almost antagonistic in their approach to something as basic as beauty. The perfectionism of classical art glorifies the body while the Orthodox and Byzantine tradition warn against the temptations of physical beauty and emphasized inner beauty.
Both traditions continue to inspire the world and yet it is a challenge for an individual to harmonize them. Livaditis appears to have done just that.
“My mom has always told us that your looks are a gift from God to you, but what you do is your gift from you to God,” she said, noting that Panoria Livaditis is a beautiful woman. “She is stunning. I don’t know how she does it, she has not aged. She looks better than any of us,” she said, but Livaditis inherited more than great Greek genes.
“Both my parents are huge inspirations in my life. My dad’s hard word and determination, only having a third grade education level, is astounding to me. He is a true testament to what hard work and dedication can do. My mom was first in her class at the University of Athens – total brainiac.”
Her family values grounded her, but so did growing up in Colorado, where she plans to stay.
“I moved out of Denver once and it was a great experience, but if I had the option I would really love to stay because I love Colorado. “If you haven’t been here you’ve got to visit,” she said “It’s amazing.”