Updated: January 5, 2013 at 12:00 am
Senior Cadet Lindsay Cordero is a magnetic personality — the kind of person who would gladly show you around the Air Force Academy or give you the shirt off her back.
But you don’t want to run into her at a beauty pageant.
She just might kill you with kindness and steal any chance of you taking home a title.
Cordero, the reigning Miss Houston, took home the National Spirit of America Award at the 2012 National American Miss pageant, held Nov. 20-25 in Anaheim, Calif.
“I didn’t expect to win anything, honestly,” said Cordero, who also took home first runner-up in the Miss Personality category.
“This is not my stomping grounds,” she said.
Cordero isn’t your stereotypical pageant queen.
Sure, she’s a self-professed girly-girl. But she can also adeptly play the part of warrior at the male-dominated Air Force Academy.
By day, the amateur body builder is all business in her combat uniform, her long, dark hair slicked back into a neat bun.
After classes, she retreats to her ultra-feminine dorm room, home to pink sheets, a leopard-print bedspread and teddy bears.
Cordero, who has only participated in two pageants, embraces the duality of her personality.
When she received an invitation to participate in the National American Miss pageant last spring, she decided that doing so would allow her to serve as a GI Jane-like role model for women who might otherwise not consider a career in the armed forces.
“I just wanted to show young women that you can be in the military,” Cordero said. “You don’t have to sacrifice your femininity. You don’t have to change who you are.”
Cordero made a point of wearing her dress uniform during interview portions of the pageant.
Many of her fellow participants “thought it was the coolest thing” to see her in uniform, Cordero said.
“But I thought it was the coolest thing to see them with their really cute nude pumps and their really cute interview outfits doing their thing.”
For many of her competitors, “doing their thing” meant championing the causes of charities they’d started.
“These women live a life of service, too, you know,” she said. “Maybe they’re not in uniform, but they change lives every single day. It made me want to come back and work that much harder.”
Cordero will graduate from the academy this spring but isn’t yet sure what her immediate future will hold.
She has a number of options after graduation: traveling the nation as an academy recruiter, working with military intelligence or going straight into acquisitions.
She’d eventually like to practice law, her true passion.
“I just want to better round myself so that when I do become a lawyer, I’ll have more experience than just the academy,” Cordero said. “I feel like I can give more by waiting until later. It’s probably the most mature decision I’ve ever made in my life.”
While Cordero is confident that she’ll become a lawyer, she isn’t sure if she’ll try cases in uniform or as a business-attired civilian after her Air Force.
She’ll exit the military if she ever finds “that point of diminishing returns where I know I can give more to my country outside the military than in.”
“But I already have three stars and set of wings,” she said with a grin while eyeing her two pageant trophies, one topped with an angel, the other topped with a trifecta of stars.
“I just want to be a force of nature that gives everything I have to my country.”