Idelys Martinez is not just about brains and beauty.
The 25-year-old law school student — one of 66 contestants in the Miss Florida USA Pageant — is also about her past and upbringing.
Born in Cuba, Martinez moved to Miami in 1998 with her parents, who worked long hours to raise their only child and ensure a better life for her. Her father drove a forklift and washed dishes. Her mother cleaned homes and worked at a Burger King.
“We had a rough start,” Martinez said. “Often I came home to an empty house, so it was very difficult. But eventually we got ourselves together and were able to get on our feet.”
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Her crowning achievement — literally and figuratively — could come Saturday when the next Miss Florida USA is announced. The pageant takes place at Parker Playhouse in Fort Lauderdale.
“I knew I wanted to be a lawyer since I was very, very little,” Martinez said. “So just the fact I was able to come here and fulfill that dream, it’s an opportunity that I would never have dreamed of in Cuba.”
Martinez is in her second year at St. Thomas University, and is one of four law school students taking part in the pageant. She hopes to apply her law degree to either civil rights or real property once she graduates and passes the bar exam.
Her smarts run in the family.
She said her mother was a professor in Cuba with a Ph.D. in psychology.
“It was worth nothing here, unfortunately,” Martinez said.
But the Martinez family managed to raise their only child, helping her become devoted to her studies and charity work. Martinez graduated from South Miami High and Florida International University with an undergraduate degree in criminal justice.
She was a Miami Dolphins cheerleader for three seasons and took part in her first local pageant in 2014. Last year, she was one of 16 finalists in the Miss Florida USA pageant.
“I was the only one who had never competed before who placed Top 16,” she said.
Preliminaries for the pageant will take place Friday. The next Miss Florida USA will be crowned Saturday, with the winner moving on to compete in the Miss USA Pageant.