Durante Blais-Billie, Aubee Billie crown king and queen to wrap up busy week
TALLAHASSEE — During a few whirlwind days in late October, the Seminole Tribe princesses extended their charm, grace and smiles from one end of the state to the other.
They smashed guitars to christen The Guitar Hotel, crowned Florida State University’s homecoming winners in front of 50,000 people and met Hollywood (California) movie stars one day, a university president the next and even the governor.
After they flawlessly completed the homecoming crowning Oct. 26 – their final official duty of the week –– Miss Florida Seminole Durante Blais-Billie, 22, and Junior Miss Florida Seminole Aubee Billie, 16, showed no signs of being drained or exhausted.
They returned upstairs at Doak Campbell Stadium to a suite and watched the third quarter, joking with each other while munching on popcorn and cheering the ‘Noles to victory against Syracuse before heading home.
They are not related, but the princesses get along together as if they were sisters or best friends, seemingly in perpetual good moods that are accompanied by bright smiles and natural affability that light up rooms as soon as they enter.
“What amazes me is the connection they have with each other,” said Cassandra Jimmie, who accompanied the princesses in Tallahassee along with Naomi Wilson.
Both are former Miss Florida Seminoles who are part of the Tribe’s Princess Program. The current princesses said they’re grateful for those who handle everything behind the scenes.
“It’s been non-stop, but thank God for our [Program],” Durante said. “They made everything run smoothly. Without them this wouldn’t have been possible.”
“I want to make sure that they get to have fun and experience it,” Wilson said. “That’s what I told them before the Guitar opening. I said to them ‘It’s your night. This is history making. I want you to enjoy everything.’ I told their mothers don’t worry about anything; enjoy your time with your daughters as well. We handle everything.”
Before they arrived at FSU on Oct. 25, the princesses spent the previous night in Hollywood amid a star-studded celebration to open The Guitar Hotel.
The princesses, who met several dignitaries and celebs, said one of the evening’s highlights was the way they were treated by actor Johnny Depp.
“Johnny Depp was so nice,” Durante said. “While we were waiting in line to meet him, he made sure that we knew he saw us. He was like, ‘hi guys.’ Throughout the night he made sure that we knew that he would recognize us.”
“I was talking to Morgan Freeman and Sophia Vergara’s husband (actor Joe Manganiello), and Johnny Depp tapped me on the shoulder and then shook my hand. He was like, ‘You are so beautiful.’ He was so nice,” Aubee said.
Aside from opening night’s glitz and glamour, the princesses realize what an important step the Tribe is taking with the $1.5 billion expansion in Hollywood.
Durante fondly recalled spending time on the property as a kid back when it hosted outdoor pow wows. She remembers the enormous tent and vendors from years ago.
“I miss the nostalgia for it, but this is the right step forward for us,” she said.
After flying with their mothers and Wilson to Tallahassee on the Tribe’s jet early Friday morning, the princesses had lunch with FSU’s homecoming court and then were bused to the homecoming parade.
While waiting to get into convertibles for the parade, the princesses met Jean Thrasher, who soon insisted that they meet her husband, FSU president John Thrasher.
“We met the president and the first lady. They were so nice to us. They came and sought us out. They made sure we knew that they were happy we were there. It was amazing,” Durante said.
The Thrashers traveled the parade route a few vehicles in front of the princesses. Durante waved to the crowd atop the backseat of a 2018 Buick Cascada while Aubee did the same in a 2018 Fiat 124 Spider Abarth.
The spirit of homecoming, clearly evident on the parade route that wound its way through campus streets lined with FSU students, alums and families, made a lasting impression on the princesses.
From being in the parade, to watching comedian Pete Davidson at the so-called “pow wow” as spectators later that night, and making the memorable trek together across the 50-yard line for the crowning, the princesses soaked it all in.
“It was really amazing,” Durante said. “You could really feel their love for their school and also for the relationship they have with our people.”
Having served as Junior Miss six years ago, Durante said she wasn’t nervous about doing the crowning in front of thousands of people; her biggest worry was that she would trip. She didn’t stumble.
The princesses walked and waved side-by-side amid the FSU Marching Band and the thousands of eyes watching them from the stands.
“I knew there was a bunch of people here, but then when you go down (on the field) you feel so small,” Aubee said.
Since the homecoming king and queen were quite taller than the Seminole royalty, they had to either kneel, which King Caleb Dawkins did, or bend down, which Queen Olivia Hopkins did.
Once the crownings were completed, the entire homecoming court and princesses had photos taken with FSU’s Osceola and Renegade.
The princesses said they loved the outfits that were made especially for homecoming; Melissa Demayo, of Hollywood, made Durante’s, and Diane Snow, of Brighton, made Aubee’s.
“Usually I wear very traditional; this is like very out-of-the-box for me, just with the sequence and the lace and the cape,” Aubee said. “It’s very crazy for me, especially with my father (James Billie); he’s very picky with what I wear; him approving it was crazy. She did a beautiful job on this. I love it so much.”
“I like to wear mine often and I really like to have them separate so that I can wear the skirts whenever. I can always find an excuse to wear skirts,” Durante said.
The agenda will remain busy in the coming weeks with duties at the American Indian Arts Celebration in Big Cypress, Veterans Day ceremonies and a Native American program at Florida Gulf Coast University in which both princesses will be among the speakers.
Also, Durante is scheduled to visit Japan in November in an official capacity.