Less County Fla June 5 2012 Miss Lee County 2013 Heather Stephens is on a quest for a crown. But it’s really the adrenaline she’s after.
A runner, the Cape Coral 20-year-old will compete in Hollywood for the title of Miss Florida in July. That thrill-seeking nature she describes led her to leap from a job at an athletic shoe store to one as a security guard.
And there the path grew temporarily dark.
Five months ago, Stephens was on bicycle patrol at Edison Mall and a first responder in late December when Thomas Goodman, 25, died in the parking lot from gunshot wounds.
“He was lying on his face, so I turned him over. He couldn’t comprehend what I was saying, telling him ‘You’re going to make it,’” Stephens said.
“That’s when I saw him take his last breath.”
It wasn’t exactly what she bargained for when she left Kids Foot Locker to work in security, now the only female in a 15-crew force at the Fort Myers mall.
She’s the only security guard to compete in a pageant organized by director Sandi Spahn, who also runs the Miss Fort Myers and a couple of other contests.
“The west coast produces the most interesting candidates, though,” she said. Among them have been a professional BMX racer and the current Miss Fort Myers, who is going to teach sign language to monkeys, Spahn said.
Stephens’ adrenaline high carried her through basketball and track at Mariner High School before leading to life as a mall guard.
Although she’s happy for the work and the ability to put her criminal justice studies — toward a general associate’s degree — at Edison State College to use, Stephens prefers motivation of a gentler kind.
About three months ago, it propelled her down the runways during New York City’s Fashion Week as a model for Ted Kim. “I loved it,” she said. “I didn’t want to come home.”
Stephens said she spends nearly every evening after work, from 10 p.m. to midnight or so, combing the Internet for overseas modeling opportunities. “I’ll pick a country a night and send out photos,” she said.
“In another country, an American is exotic. New York is looking for girls from Russia and Poland right now.”
Stephens’ goal is high-fashion modeling, “but I always have a back-up plan.” Toward that, she hopes to enroll in Florida Gulf Coast University once the associate’s degree is in her pocket and study communications, perhaps working someday as a public information officer in law enforcement or even the FBI.
“She’s very aggressive, very goal-oriented,” said her father, Craig Stephens, who is in sales.
He attends as many of her official Miss Lee County appearances as possible, and even added one to the family agenda recently.
Heather and her father have attended the Cape Coral Yacht Club father-daughter dance since 1987, when Heather was 7 years old. This year, he encouraged her to wear her crown and sash.
“And all these little girls were coming up to get their pictures taken with the queen,” she said, smiling.
Just one goal is on hold at the moment: marriage.
Stephens is engaged to Colt Masters, whom she describes as her “high school sweetheart.” He’s a police aide on Sanibel with a goal of his own, to be a law enforcement officer.
The couple particularly enjoys fishing. Masters seems to understand her multifaceted personality: He recently gave her a black and pink rod with a ladyfish design.
But for now the two are wading solo.
The titles Stephens seeks begin with “Miss.”