OKEECHOBEE — Miss Florida Seminole Tia Blais-Billie and Jr. Miss Seminole Brianna Blais-Billie made their first official public appearance Sept. 2 at the Okeechobee Labor Day parade celebration.
Dressed in full traditional attire, the princesses began the day with a parade through the streets of Okeechobee, waving and smiling to a cheering crowd.
Dance troops, local businesses, law enforcement and the Okeechobee High School marching band also participated in the parade.
“It was very fun. I enjoyed people reading my sign and pointing at me saying, ‘Seminole!’” Brianna said. “They could identify us.”
After the parade, and a quick stop at the shaved ice stand to cool off, the princesses made their way to the stage. Tia reminded everyone that Labor Day is a celebration of the hard working people around the country.
“[It was] very humbling but a very exciting experience to speak on behalf of the Tribe,” Tia said of her first public appearance. “It felt very surreal to have everyone looking at me as the face of the Tribe.”
During their reign, the sisters look forward to educating the public about the Seminole Tribe and ending stereotypes about Seminoles. Tia, for example, wants the public to know that the Tribe has a full-functioning government, while Brianna hopes to inform others about the importance of culture to the Tribe.
“Even though we are modern and thriving, our culture is still important. I want to preserve our traditions, as well as make an impact on the modern world,” Brianna said.
The girls hope they are perceived in a certain way as well.
“I hope I am perceived as knowledgeable on a worldly level, that I have an understanding of foreign nations, as well as what is going on in our community,” Tia said. “I hope that after meeting with people, my position is not a novelty but [is seen] as an official [position].”