Former Miss America champion Ericka Dunlap takes a walk on the political side

By : Billy Manes
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ORLANDO – Ericka Dunlap has been everywhere. The ubiquitous beauty queen has followed the trails of her 2004 crowning as Miss America with numerous service projects, making her name as a supporter for the rights of those with less, and doing so with grace. She’s also hilarious, but you’re not supposed to know that. This year, Dunlap will face off against Orlando District 5 Commissioner Regina Hill in November. And though Hill has been dogged by bad press and a series of unfortunate events, Dunlap isn’t trading in the base of political gamesmanship. She’s just continuing her philanthropy in the best way she knows how: at home.

“I have been a resident of District 5 all of my life, and honestly I have always wanted to positively impact the people. That’s the reason why I think people should give pageants credit: for what they can do, which allows a young lady to represent her area, but also to bring life to what you can do,” she says.

Dunlap, who filed quietly on Dec. 6, is looking forward to getting into the advancement of her community, black and white. There is a cycle of abuse, she contends, and it feeds on itself.

“My focus is going to be jobs, housing and education, but education from the standpoint of environmental operations of education to reduce the barriers to success for the students of our area, and that includes students coming from our area for the UCF expansion,” she says. But she doesn’t want to climb into the mud that will necessarily be lobbed at her door.

“It’s really hard to find people who get it,” she says. “So many people don’t understand that what you see is what you get. And all people expect when I say that I’m from District 5 is that the place is so ridden with crime. And I’m like, that’s because that is all you see.”

But she has no illusions about political perceptions as she faces down current District 5 Commissioner Regina Hill.

“I’m not a politician, I’m a beauty queen – point blank period,” she says, admitting her lack of political acumen.

And her course has been different already. Dunlap claims that a large part of her success comes from the LGBTQ community, and she intends to pay it back and forward.

“You have no question! I got your back and your front, baby,” she laughs. “I wouldn’t be who I am today without [famed female impersonator] Carmela Marcella Garcia. And I don’t care what people think about Carmela, I just know that is one awesome human being who made my dream come true.

“We have to value the diversity of the people who make our lives work. I absolutely have the backs of the LGBTQ community, just like I do the Muslim community, just like I do the Christian community. It is because I understand.”

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