It was 1984. I was just a seven year old girl at that time and Miss Universe that year was to take place in Miami. Pageant organizers were doing a search for 80 local girls aged between five to eight years who will be paired up with each contestant and act as their “Little Sisters”.
My mom brought me along with some of my photos and we had a little interview before the girls were chosen. I remember there were more than 80 little girls there but I can't remember the exact number. After I was chosen we went for a meeting at the Knight Center (the venue for the event) and we were given two songs to learn.
We were told that we were either going to be singing along the sides of the aisle where the contestants we were paired with would walk during the evening gown portion of the competition and if our big sister was chosen one of the top 10 we would get to walk them down the aisle with them and hand them a rose. It was all very exciting for a 7 year.
To top off the joy, I was paired with Miss Philippines named Desiree. I thought she was just about the most beautiful woman I have ever seen. We did not get to spend a ton of time with our big sisters as they were prepping up for the for the pageant night but Desiree was sweet and kind and made me feel like she was interested in getting to know me.
|Jennifer curtsies before Desiree|
I remember the moment I found out that Desiree had made the Top Ten! It meant that I would get to walk with her. This was pretty big time for a small child. I was thrilled for her and filled me with total glee too. I don't recall being nervous even though I knew this was televised worldwide and that we were being watched by a large audience. I loved every second! It seemed like I won too! It was an amazing night and my Desiree got 3rd runner up! Pretty awesome, I might say.
Fast forward over 20 years and I am living and working in Fashion in NYC ( a city I love so much). I believe it was in 2008 that I began working for Rafe Totengco as a sales associate selling his gorgeous line of handbags and shoes. Tesa, his sister and now my friend was my direct boss and the head of sales. One day we were talking about the Philippines and I shared with her my experience and the first thing out of her mouth was "Desiree".
She shared with me that they were friends and had modeled together when they were younger. We watched the youtube video and laughed about what a small world it was. Fast forward again to a couple of days ago when I was on Facebook and saw that Desiree had tagged Tesa in a modeling photo from back in the day and I took the opportunity to connect with my Miss Universe big sister.
I friended Desiree and wrote her a message. She wrote back right away and we exchanged messages that about our experience, shared photos of our beautiful children (her daughter is stunning) and about how amazing social media can be because we were able to be in touch after 30 years. It truly is a gift!!!
|Desiree places 3rd in the Evening Gown Competition|
I lived in NYC for just shy of 13 years and I loved it more the longer I was there but then life happened and I fell in love with my husband David. David was a friend of mine from growing up but we didn't stay in touch after high school.
We had drinks one night when he was in NYC with a mutual friend. It was followed with dinner a few weeks later in Miami while I was home for Thanksgiving and that was that. I moved home to Miami five months later and we were married on October 12, 2013. It’s been a busy few years.
|Jennifer with husband David Auerbach|
I gave birth to my daughter Arden Sloane on July 29, 2014, the best day of my life. She is absolutely perfect! When I left my job at Li & Fung in NY to move to Miami, I had no idea about my next job. Being a mom would be the hardest but best job I would ever have. Every minute is truly a gift getting to watch her grow.
I am overwhelmed by the outpouring of kind messages posted on my #TBT photo and message. I feel very blessed for the experience I had but and grateful that Facebook gave me the opportunity to reconnect with my old friend and make new ones.What an amazing story indeed! That walk on centerstage with Desiree was a mere 30 seconds and yet has left a lasting impression. Thank you Jennifer for the trust and the confidence when you shared your story without second thoughts.
Thank you also to my idol Desiree Verdadero- Abesamis for being a worthy representative of the Philippines and for showing the rest of the world the beauty, grace & kindness of the Filipina
Thank you also to the Miss Universe Organization for this is indeed a validation of the positive impact & international goodwill that the pageant has contributed to the global community
Here's the link to The Era of the Miss Universe Little Sisters