Candice Bennatt is on a winning streak. Last fall, she captured the Miss Montgomery County 2008 crown. This spring, she advanced through four rounds of eliminations to secure a spot on the Houston Texans Cheerleading squad. With the pre-registration total at nearly 1,000 and only 35 openings, Bennatt knew the competition would be fierce, but she believed she had the talent to qualify. Bennatt believes challenges are excellent opportunities to enhance confidence. Since that’s her philosophy, this next challenge should do wonders for her self-esteem; on June 28, she will join hundreds of other Miss Texas contestants in Fort Worth for a week of preliminaries. The winner chosen on July 5 will represent Texas in the January 2009 Miss America pageant. “I started dancing at age 3,” Bennatt explained, “and began to compete in pageants when I was 14. This has given me a tremendous amount of self-confidence. I know what it’s like to win and to lose, but I never let a loss defeat me. When I lose a competition, I ask myself, ‘What can I learn from this so I can come back next year and do it right?’” Bennatt uses these life lessons as building blocks for her platform when she speaks to co-ed students at local schools. When addressing elementary students, she spotlights the value of setting goals, taking responsibility and being confident. She also provides simple ways to build self-esteem. “When I speak to high school students,” Bennatt said, “I focus on breaking the cycle of domestic violence. Specifically, I discuss dating abuse and prevention.” Sometimes when she’s out in the community, words are not necessary. She has assisted with the Special Olympics and a veteran’s memorial fundraiser. Every Thanksgiving and Christmas, the 2007 Kingwood High School graduate enjoys taking part in the SuperFeast at the George R. Brown Convention Center. “I go with a group of other girls who are in pageants. It’s a lot of fun; we wear aprons and gloves and put hair nets over our crowns!” When she travels to Fort Worth for the pageant, Bennatt’s best friend will be there, too; Rachel Garrett is Miss Houston. “I met Rachel several years ago at the Miss Teen Texas pageant, and we discovered we lived in the same neighborhood. At first, Rachel wasn’t interested in competing in Miss Texas but I pleaded with her and on the last day, she entered. We don’t even think of each other as competition and are enjoying shopping together for evening gowns.” The price tags attached to those gowns are not for the faint of heart. “My poor mom; her wallet stays empty! I help with as many expenses as I can. I finished 12th in the 2007 Miss Texas pageant and received a one-year scholarship that paid for all my college tuition,” said Bennatt. She competed as Miss Austin Area in that pageant. Bennatt’s dance card stays full these days. If she is not participating in mock interviews or practicing her dances for the pageant, she is rehearsing three days a week with the Houston Texans cheerleaders. Also, she works as a receptionist part time at the QLS gym in Kingwood. The job is necessary because, according to Bennatt, NFL cheerleaders don’t earn a large salary. “The pay is minimal,” she laughed. “It only pays for my gas to go to rehearsal.” With such a tight schedule, Bennatt skipped classes this summer. “I’ll return this fall; my education is very important to me.” Her future plans include applying to medical school. “One of the great things about competing in pageants is that it has increased my desire to learn more and that enables me to talk confidently about current events. I cannot begin to tell you how competing has helped me polish my communication skills. Oh, and I also get to make many new friends,” she added. Photo: Kingwood resident Candice Bennatt is having the time of her life. Already this year, she’s danced her way into the Houston Texans cheerleaders squad. Her next dance may earn her the Miss Texas 2008 crown.