Leja Apple has surely kept herself busy in the years since being crowned 2013 Miss Pasco.
She has a burgeoning modeling and acting career — appearing in various commercials, infomercials and independent films. She’s also an on-air host at HSN, peddling hair and makeup products.
On top of that, she’s an adjunct professor of speech communication at St. Petersburg College and a sales event coordinator at The Birchwood in downtown St. Petersburg.
Plus, she is working toward her PhD in organizational leadership from Northcentral University.
So, how does she manage it all?
“Coffee is definitely my greatest friend,” Apple said, with a chuckle.
Apple, who lives in St. Petersburg, was the featured guest speaker at the East Pasco Networking Group’s July breakfast meeting in Dade City.
She used the forum to share her thoughts on the importance of verbal and non-verbal communication in business and sales.
She also discussed her career and life after pageantry, in a sit-down interview with The Laker/Lutz News.
While she doesn’t get to visit Pasco as often as she’d like, Apple has fond memories of regularly attending the Pasco County Fair, the Kumquat Festival and Main Street Zephyrhills festivals.
She recalled taking part in such events well before being awarded Miss Pasco and during her year of service in the role. Her older sister, Andrea Apple, was Miss Kumquat in 2009.
Apple admired Pasco for being a close-knit, faith-based community that “looks out for one another.”
“I just always have loved this area,” Apple said. “Even though you’re in a populous area — you’re less than an hour from Tampa — you still get that community, kind of country, small-town feel, and I love how everybody helps out each other.”
Apple competed in pageantry from 2007 to 2014. She won five local titles during that span, including Miss Largo and Miss Pinellas; she also finished in the top 10 in Miss Florida voting in 2014.
Being Miss Pasco ranks among her favorite pageant experiences, Apple said.
“It was fun. It was definitely a surprise, of course, winning, but it was fun,” she said.
Aside from the crowns and ribbons, Apple cherishes the lasting relationships she built through pageantry.
“You get to meet so many great people with competing,” Apple said. “Some of the girls I competed with I’m still friends to this day; we hang out with each other. One girl, she used to call it the “Miss Florida Sorority,” because you got to see a lot of the same people.”
She enjoys running into the contestants. “It’s always so fun to see where life has taken them,” she said.
Apple also appreciates the scholarships she won through pageantry, and the professional development offered along the way.
Said Apple, “The great thing about pageantry is just how much confidence that you earn and the public speaking.
“It definitely has opened doors and given me opportunities to share what I’ve learned.”
Ultimately, Apple wants to become a professor and teach online full-time, while having the flexibility to pursue acting and modeling.
The former Miss Pasco clearly enjoys the latter, but acknowledged show business “is all over the place” and “comes and goes” in terms of being able to maintain a steady income.
Sometimes, she said, “I’ve had something every single day for months and then other times nothing for six months, so it just really kind of depends.”
That said, some of her most gratifying experiences have come through commercials and infomercial work — including a gig for Thermacell mosquito repellent, in which she pretended to be bitten by mosquitos while hiking.
“They’re so much fun,” she said. “The overreacting and everything, it’s always neat to see that.”
Apple noted she’s sometimes taken aback when she sees herself on late night television, plastered across a billboard, or pictured on the back of a bus.
She recounted seeing her likeness in a Walmart print ad for Fruit of the Loom’s thermal wear. “It was kind of weird walking through Walmart and you’re like, ‘Hey, that’s me on the package,’ she said.
Then, she purchased “like 50 pairs” of the brand’s thermal wear in the store. “The person at the checkout counter was probably like, ‘What is wrong with you?’” she said, poking a little fun at herself.
Apple clearly considers her pageantry experience as being beneficial to her life, and she offered some words of advice for anyone aspiring to become Miss Pasco.
“Just go for it,” Apple said. “Even if you’ve never competed in a pageant before, even if you’re a pageant queen and have always done it — you will learn a lot about yourself, you will learn a lot about how much you can push yourself and put you outside of your comfort zone.”
Published July 31, 2019