Taylor Castello competes in Miss Texas pagent

Brazoswood Choir Member

Taylor Castello

Competes in
Miss Texas USA pagent

Locals swear it must be a mysterious elixir in the water that transforms local girls into stunning beauty pageant queens.

There is a long list of beauties from the Lake Jackson area who have catapulted to statewide, and even national, fame. Latin singer Selena spent her childhood in Brazosport. Two Festival of Lights queens captured back-to-back Miss Texas Teen USA titles: Brittany Tiner in 2002 and Katherine Perello in 2001. And Stephanie Guerrero captured the title of Miss Texas USA 2004 and placed in the top 15 in the Miss USA pageant.

The Brazosport area could again claim a Miss Texas USA winner, as three pageant contestants have made the area their past or present homes: Miss Southeast Texas Brittany Tiner, Miss Cuero Christina Greathouse and Taylor Castello, the first-ever Miss Lake Jackson. All three will compete for the Miss Texas USA crown in Laredo on Sunday.

Just like Guerrero, these local beauties got their start at Lake Jackson’s Miss Festival of Lights pageant. Tiner, 19, placed second runner-up in 2000 and competed at Miss Rice Belt. She went on to be crowned Miss Texas Teen USA 2002.

Greathouse, 26, competed three years in Miss Festival of Lights before moving to Cuero last fall. She won third-runner up and Miss Congeniality at the Lake Jackson pageant in 2003, she said.

As for Castello, she will go down in area history as the first Miss Lake Jackson. On her fourth time to participate, she won the Miss Festival of Lights crown last fall.

It was a historic win because, for the first time, the pageant is sending the winner to the Miss Texas USA competition. In the past, girls had to compete in nearby preliminary contests, but from now on, Festival of Lights is paying the $1,250 entry fees for both the Miss Texas USA and Miss Texas Teen USA competitions. It will not be an official preliminary, however, because it substitutes a casual wear category for the swimsuit competition.

With the new Miss Lake Jackson title, the rest of the state will finally learn just how beautiful the crop of Brazosport girls is, said Kathy White, Festival of Lights pageant director and Castello’s coach.

“We’ve produced a lot of quality girls, but we’ve never got any recognition for it,” she said.

Castello’s only experience with beauty pageants has been through the Festival of Lights.

Last fall, a bout of homesickness convinced the University of Texas freshman to enter the Miss Festival of Lights pageant, Castello said. The prize package that included the Miss Texas USA entry fee also played a role, said her mother, Sheryl Castello.

After winning the crown, Castello began a regimen of healthy eating and exercise. She hired an interview coach and started tanning to give color to her natural alabaster complexion. It was a challenge for a college freshman to juggle courses and a job. There were times when she relaxed her diet, she said.

“I realize I’m a college student and if someone’s going to offer me free pizza, I’m going to eat free pizza,” she said.

Last week brought last-minute training and a full-blown spa treatment before heading off to Laredo over the weekend. Castello rehearsed her runway struts and turns Tuesday at Events. The leggy blond sashayed down the stage, turned and flashed a smile at the imaginary judges as White coached her to take her time, make deliberate eye contact with the judges and other crucial details.

“Your hands, they’re clenching,” White said.

The key is making the runway walk appear effortless in spike heels and her practice dress — a long, beaded blue formal with a plunging neckline. Castello said it’s not as easy as it looks. Some shoes lack tight grips. Tripping on the formal dress can spell disaster at any moment.

As she makes the minutes-long walk, Castello said her mantra is “don’t fall over, don’t fall over.”

White believes Castello has a strong chance at Miss Texas USA. She’s poised, eloquent, mature and has brains to match her beauty, White said. The contestant also has a strong platform, promoting women in math and science.

“Out of all the girls that I have worked with at the Miss level of competition, I think she has the best chance of making it to the top 20,” White said.

Castello hopes to add the Miss Texas USA title to an already impressive résumé. She was named the University of Texas’ female freshman of the year. She’s a Texas Spirit, a selective UT spirit group for freshmen and sophomore women, and was the major for the Brazoswood Buccaneer Belles, Brazoswood Choir Member and All-State Choir Member.

Taylor Castello

Well-wishers, including Castello’s boyfriend, Kyle Giese
(Brazoswood Choir Member), who will be singing at the pageant as part of the Texas A&M Singing Cadets, gathered at the Castellos’ home in the Timbercreek subdivision to send Miss Lake Jackson off in style. Friends and family members hugged and kissed her goodbye, telling her they would be praying for her.

Kyle Giese

Others, like her best friend Samantha Conn, admonished the beauty for standing outside.

“Do not get bit by mosquitoes,” she said. “Your legs need to be flawless.”

Conn will be part of the large Lake Jackson cheering section at the pageant in Laredo to support Castello and Tiner, who went to high school together. The contingent will flash a sign supporting Tiner on one side and reverse it when Castello walks down the runway, Conn said.

Tiner, who is a child psychology major at Texas Tech University, will draw on her experience as Miss Texas Teen USA in her first statewide competition at the Miss level, said her mother, Cathy Tiner. She’ll give it her best shot and, if she doesn’t win, she’ll regroup for next year, Tiner said.

“She will grow on her mistakes from this year,” Tiner said. “She has a very positive and relaxed attitude going into this.”

Greathouse looked forward to her first and last Miss Texas USA. At age 26, it is the last year she’s eligible to compete.

“It’s a dream come true for me,” Greathouse said. “It’s something I always wanted to do, and it’s finally come true.”

Castello’s father, Rick, said he is not an avid supporter of pageants, but he has watched the experience make his daughter more poised and confident. And she’s forged most of her own path because the firm father told his only daughter she had to pay her own way to the pageant. She solicited support from area businesses, which have shown overwhelming support for the first-ever Miss Lake Jackson, Rick Castello said.

“People have done a lot to make her successful and be successful from this area,” he said.

And meanwhile, the rest of the state will finally get a chance to put a face with Lake Jackson at the contest, White said.

“There’s never been a Miss Lake Jackson USA at Miss Texas before,” she said.

By Bridie Isensee
The Facts
Published June 20, 2005