Some people might think they know all about Jessica Pribanic just from taking
one long look at her.
Sure, there are a lot of blonde-haired, blue-eyed Hooters Girls across the country, but none quite like the 24-year-old Pribanic. The 5-4, 114-pound Sandusky native, who has lived in Oregon for more than a year, is more than just a pretty face.
After graduating from Sandusky High School in three years, Pribanic graduated from Bowling Green State University with a degree in liberal studies.
“I had a triple focus in philosophy, psychology and sociology,” she said. “I put myself through college working at Hooters, so I didn’t have student loans to pay off. I’ve worked at Hooters for six years and it has paid off.
“I had planned on going to law school, but my modeling career has picked up a little bit. I might hold off and see where this goes for a little while. I was pretty busy over the summer. I might do this for another year and try to go back to school after that.”
Pribanic is also a competitive sailor. In March, she helped her boyfriend, Christopher Curreri, who lives in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, sail his sailboat, Brand New Second Hand, to a first-place finish in the IC-24 division at the Rolex International Regatta in the Virgin Islands.
Pribanic served as the main trimmer aboard the vessel. She said she visits Curreri for two weeks every couple of months.
“I spend a lot of time sailing now,” Pribanic said, “and I also helped open up the Hooters in St. Thomas.”
Pribanic was a natural to work at Hooters. She had the looks as well as a strong background in food service. Her father, Jamie, owns a restaurant in Sandusky.
“I’ve been waiting tables since I was probably 14,” said Pribanic, who has an older brother and sister and a younger half-sister.
On June 20, Pribanic competed in her fifth Hooters International Swimsuit Pageant. She was chosen from a field of more than 17,000 Hooters waitresses nationwide to compete in the 13th annual event, held in Hollywood, Fla. She has also competed in the Hooters International Swimsuit Pageant in Las Vegas (twice) and Miami.
Her best finish was in 2006 in Las Vegas, where she placed in the top 30.
“I got nominated through my company (in Toledo), and you compete on several different levels,” Pribanic said. “The Toledo Hooters has a pageant every St. Patrick’s Day. Either the top two or top five will go on to the semifinals in Louisville, Ky.”
This year’s International pageant winner took home $50,000 cash with her crown and will be featured in the Hooters Magazine, in the Hooters Calendar and in national television commercials.
“Hooters has this perception of this All-American girl next door - pretty in the face but someone who can talk to anybody and be in any position to represent the company well,” Pribanic said. “They want someone willing to go out and do fundraisers and stuff like that. All the girls there are there representing their home stores.”
Pribanic said she prepared hard for this year’s International pageant. She kept a strict diet and ran four miles a day “religiously” for six months.
“It’s always a different experience every year,” she said. “The competition is always a little more stiff, so you tend to train a little more. I started training about two months earlier than I would in the past. I worked pretty hard. I restricted my diet and worked out and tried to stay motivated. It’s difficult when you’re competing against 130 other drop-dead gorgeous girls.
“I’m always pretty nervous, and this year I wasn’t. You always say this never gets easier, but this year I think it was a little easier. I knew I had worked really hard for it and I felt good about myself. You get this surge of energy from the crowd when you go on stage and so many people are supporting you. It kind of takes your nerves away.”
Pribanic said she wasn’t told where she finished in this year’s Hooters International pageant, which drew 130 Hooters Girls from around the world. Only the top 10 finalists are announced.
“Jessica did not make it to the top 10, but to make it to the pageant is a feat in itself,” said Alexis Aleshire, public relations manager for Hooters of America. “Jessica has made it to the finals various times and she is one of our top Hooters Girls.”
Pribanic said she had a good experience at the International pageant. The event was broadcast live to every Hooters restaurant in the country and streamed live at Hooters.com.
“You still have to be yourself and show up with whatever you came with last year, and more,” Pribanic said. “I trained a lot harder this year than I normally would. After a while, there’s not much more you can do than try your hardest. Every year you have an expectation for yourself, to place in the top 10 or be that $50,000 winner. Not placing gives you more reason to try harder the next year.”
Pribanic has appeared in four Hooters Calendars; she is Miss January 2009. Her 2009 photos were taken in Nashville, Tenn., at a mansion formerly owned by country singer Barbara Mandrell.
She has also appeared on the 2006 cover of a bodybuilding magazine Body Talk, and she helped coordinate fashion shows for Indian Motorcycles.
Pribanic said her mother, Debbie, is her biggest fan.
“She drove from Ohio to Florida to see my competition this year,” Pribanic said. “I don’t think she’s ever missed a competition. She’s been there for all my pageants. She’s really proud. Dad is as well. He works a lot, so he cheers me on from the sidelines.”
Pribanic plans to pursue a law degree in the future, but for now those plans are on hold so that she can look into different avenues in modeling.
“I’d love for there to be some other work in any sense of modeling that may boost my career or get me into something new,” she said. “Hooters will always be my home and they’ve helped me out a lot. I may hang out in modeling and look into fashion modeling and see where that goes.”