A former Lake Gibson High School cheerleader was fourth runner-up in a swimsuit contest sponsored by a restaurant chain known for its servers in skimpy attire.
Janet Layug was among 100 contestants in the 14th annual Hooters International Swimsuit Pageant in Fort Lauderdale. The 21-year-old has worked at the chain's North Lakeland restaurant for three years and is studying to be a nurse at a local college.
Layug, the mother of an almost 2-year-year-old girl, won $7,000.
"It was very unexpected," said Layug, who competed last year but didn't place in the top 10.
Layug, who is 5 feet 7 inches tall, said her years as a varsity cheerleader at Lake Gibson High helped keep her in shape. She has appeared on Hooters calendars in 2009 and 2010 and in ads for the chain founded in Clearwater.
Her hobbies include playing sports and gardening. She said she'll be busy the next year making promotional appearances such as autograph sessions based on her placement in the top five.
Contestants in Saturday's pageant traveled from as far as the Australia to represent the 455 Hooters restaurants in 29 countries around the world.
"The competition gets stronger every year at the pageant," pageant director Beth Taylor said. "Lakeland was well represented with Janet who caught the judges' eyes and stood out amongst the competition."
The contestants that competed in Fort Lauderdale were selected from more than 17,000 Hooters employees by either advancing through local and regional contests or because they are featured in the Hooters calendar.
LeAngela Davis, who works at a restaurant in Columbus, Ohio, was crowned Miss Hooters International at the pageant. She received $50,000 and will be featured in Hooters Magazine, national marketing campaigns and TV commercials. Rachel Mortenson, representing Phoenix, was first runner up and received $15,000; Ashleigh Dunn, from Newnan, Ga., took home $10,000 as second runner up, and third place runner up was Susan Murray, representing Katy, Texas, who won $8,000.
Other top 10 finalists, including Theresa Trujillo, Campbell, Calif.; Chelsie Hurst, Saginaw, Mich.; Elizabeth Johnston, Central Carolina; Tia Jackson, Saugus, Mass.; and Lindsay Way, Fort Lauderdale, all received $2,000 each.
The contestants were judged in eveningwear and bikinis by a celebrity panel of judges including: Chelsea Lately's Chuy Bravo; E! Entertainment host Michael Yo; reality TV series Survivor star and former Hooters Girl, Jerri Manthey; rock musician Ryan Cabrera; and former member of Pussycat Dolls, Ashley Roberts. The show was broadcast live on Spike TV and was hosted by Dan Cortese and back stage co-host Carrie Keagan.
Florida servers who competed but didn't place in the top 10 included Meagan Cyr, Clearwater; Casey Luckey, Melbourne; Amber Workman, Orange Park; Jessica Moody and Megan Corley, both of Orlando; Ally Durant of Pensacola; Sam Wiggins of Pensacola Beach; Carra O'Sullivan of Sarasota; and Ashley Held of West Palm Beach.
Lakeland has been well represented in the contest in recent years. Niki Longtin was in the top 10 in 2008 and Linsey Toole finished in the top 10 in 2006.
The first Hooters opened in 1983 in Clearwater and became famous for its chicken wings served by women dressed in white tank tops and orange short-shorts. For information, go to www.hooters.com.