The past few months have been pretty exciting for Leiah Rocheleau. The popular Ashburn-based banker got married on New Year’s Eve—just in time to compete for the title of Mrs. DC America this Saturday.
The blonde Midwestern beauty has only been a Loudouner for a few years. But she’s proudly representing the region at the pageant and embracing the chance to promote her favorite Northern Virginia charities.
Rocheleau, who’s known for her outgoing personality and her commitment to community service, admits she’s a little nervous.
“As much as I think a lot of people would meet me and think I’m the most confident person on the planet, I’m terrified,” Rocheleau said.
But she’s also enjoying the spirit of friendly competition and seizing an opportunity to promote her platform of helping underprivileged children.
Rocheleau, a vice president at Middleburg Bank where she works with community organizations, is the pageant’s youngest contestant at 30. She was inspired to compete by local designer Cathy Ebrada Cleveland, owner of downtown Leesburg’s Ebrada Atelier.
Ebrada got involved with the pageant a few years ago through her friend Elaine Espinola Keltz, the Ashburn resident who was crowned Mrs. DC America in 2015. Ebrada designed Rocheleau’s wedding dress last year and thought her young client would be perfect for the pageant.
“She’s funny, she’s intelligent but at the same time she’s down to earth,” Ebrada said.
Rocheleau was hesitant at first, but Ebrada’s encouragement and the idea of promoting her favorite local charities inspired her to apply. And Rocheleau is counting on the warm personality and sense of community service that have served her so well in her banking career to carry her through in the pageant, which emphasizes personal and professional accomplishments and volunteerism.
“The ‘Mrs.’ pageant is definitely more oriented toward community and what you’ve been doing with your life,” Rocheleau said.
And her platform focusing on serving underprivileged children reflects her involvement with two local nonprofits. The Kids R First program provides school supplies to low-income children in Fairfax and Loudoun counties, and the Loudoun chapter of the Beat The Odds offers scholarships for college and vocational training for at-risk high school students.
The pageant places a high value on interview skills, with that component making up 50 percent of each candidate’s score. But there is a bit of the traditional beauty contest involved: the evening gown and bathing suit competitions each represent 25 percent of the contestant’s score. Ebrada is sponsoring Rocheleau for the pageant and designing her evening gown. The design is top secret but combines Ebrada’s sophisticated and elegant style with a hint of Rocheleau’s taste for fairy tale whimsy.
The pageant, which takes place March 18 at the French Embassy in Georgetown, is open to candidates living within 25 miles of DC. But each contestant is assigned a neighborhood within the district, and Rocheleau is officially running as Mrs. Dupont Circle. The pageant is a preliminary event for the Mrs. America and Mrs. World pageants, so it could just be the first step for Rocheleau.
Rocheleau is also in a tight race for first place in the pageant’s online Fabulous Face contest, a pre-pageant charity fundraiser that allows fans to vote for their candidate of choice in advance.
The winner of the contest gets an automatic spot in the top five, and voting runs through 7:30 p.m. on March 18.
Like many young professionals relocating to Loudoun, the region’s hot job market drew Rocheleau and her husband, Jay. The couple moved to Northern Virginia for Jay’s job with a financial services firm, and Leiah parlayed her marketing degree and banking background into a community relations post with Middleburg Bank.
“It’s always been about people for me,” she said. “I’ve always said that if I can’t work for a community bank and really give back I won’t be in banking anymore because it won’t fit for me.”
Rocheleau, who hails from Colorado and Michigan and has spent most of her life in the Midwest, has embraced the Loudoun community she serves as a banker—and her own Lansdowne neighborhood.
“I love the community. Everybody has such tight-knit relationships and everybody is so loyal to their local businesses. I’m such a fan of giving back and supporting our local economy. I love the farmers markets,” Rocheleau said. “We’re right in the town center, and I love being able to walk to the places we go to every single day of the week.”
Rocheleau says her family and colleagues have been especially supportive, and she’ll have a robust cheering section on Saturday.
“My husband is very supportive of everything I do fortunately,” she said. “I think he was hoping for a relaxed start into the New Year after our recent nuptials but he knows me, and I will never shy away from a challenge.”
The Mrs. DC America pageant is 7 p.m. Saturday, March 18, at the Embassy of France in Washington, DC. General admission tickets are $60 per person. For tickets and details, go to mrsdcamerica.org. To vote for Leiah Rocheleau in the pageant’s Fabulous Face contest, go to gogophotocontest.com/aoagwllc-dc-fabulous-face-contest
Learn more about Leiah Rocheleau’s favorite local nonprofits at kidsrfirst.org and btoloudoun.org.