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JU grad Georgina Kalaitzi takes first runner-up in national 2012 Venus Model Search

She’d modeled before, but 2010 Jacksonville University grad Georgina Kalaitzis had never considered pageants or swimsuit contests before entering the national Venus Model Search on a whim in early July.

Jacksonville University grad Georgina Kalaitzis (left), took first runner-up in the national 2012 Venus Model Search Aug. 9. Photo by Mario Peralta/Mario Peralta Photography.

By Thursday, Aug. 9, she’d bested nearly all other 1,000 entrants to become first runner-up at the finals, held at Suite, a high-end restaurant/club at the St. Johns Town Center. Kalaitzis earned a one-year modeling contract, hundreds of dollars in Venus gift cards, $500 cash – and higher modeling hopes – for her efforts.

“I’m still in shock and can’t really believe it,” said Kalaitzis, 24, of Arlington, who works in marketing and as an executive assistant at corporate headquarters for Latitude Global entertainment venues. “It all happened so fast and I was so new to competing. It was great to have it held in Jacksonville and to have my family and friends there to support me.”

Mom Patti Kalaitzis, who works at JU’s Marine Science Research Institute, said she was “speechless” at her daughter’s success.

“We’re so proud of her and all she’s done to get this far,” she said. “She’s so natural and so real, with good morals and values and a great personality. I’m sure many doors will open for her because of this, because she’s worked hard with her photo shoots and with agencies.”

Georgina Kalaitzis, photo by Brittani Bowman/Brittania Garden Photoart.

The Venus Model Search is one of the more high-profile and successful swimwear contests held nationally, according to event organizers. From more than 1,000 online entries starting in May 2012, a panel of judges chose the top 70 entrants for online public voting. A field of 11 finalists competed Thursday in Jacksonville.

Contestants competed in cocktail dresses and swimwear and were also judged on poise and confidence. They were asked to describe themselves in three words, to which Georgina responded: “Outgoing, Athletic and Carefree.”

A panel of Venus judges including Venus Creative Director Debbie Callaway, Executive Vice President of Swimwear Design Jodi Frederick and Chief Operating Officer Elisa Lowry determined the winner.

Being athletic, healthy and fit have always been high priorities for the Kalaitzis family; Georgina said she played soccer, flag football and more growing up.

“Life has always revolved around sports,” she said. “My mom swam her whole life, me and my sister grew up playing soccer, running, doing outdoor activities. … I like the way it makes me feel.”

Georgina, a JU Communications graduate, isn’t sure of all her next steps, but modeling is definitely one of them. She’s represented by Integrity Model Management, Manikin Modeling Agency and Prodigy Models, and has already been an HTC Cover Girl on Facebook, won Best Makeup for the Jacksonville Magazine Cover Model Search 2012 and participated in Jacksonville Fashion Week and First Coast Fashion Week.

“I just feel like a small-town girl from Jacksonville, but I’m very excited and honored to be chosen, and I will be jumping on the next opportunities,” she said.