Monday, Aug. 6, 2001 | 9:12 a.m.
Ashley Huff said she always has enjoyed taking center stage.
Huff will have the opportunity to do just that Sept. 22 during the Miss America 2001 competition, where she plans to promote sexual abstinence among teens.
Huff, a Georgia native, moved to Las Vegas two years ago to attend UNLV and major in communications.
"Vegas is like a mixed salad; there are a variety of people from all over the world here," Huff said. "I love the heat here and how close it is to the ocean and the mountains."
Huff said the Miss Nevada title she won on July 1 has changed her life.
Moving to Reno and skipping school for a semester are just a few changes Huff has made to compete in the national pageant. In less than a month she has made school appearances, met with Gov. Kenny Guinn and joined the state's Youth Advisory Council.
But she still has a lot to do before the big event. There're dress fittings, clothes shopping, interview classes and daily sessions with a personal trainer.
Enhancing her appearance is important, she said, but so is promoting teen abstinence.
"I was a little worried with how the younger kids would react to her stance, but they are very receptive," Linda Cross, executive director of the Miss Nevada Scholarship Foundation, said. "To be a young lady today and step out and take that issue on, I was in awe that she decided to do that."
Huff has been Miss Nevada for a little more than a month, and she is already working with the governor on a federally funded program, called Abstinence Works. She also has plans to make public service announcements about the program within the next month.
"I have parents that taught me morals and values, and I realize not everyone has that," Huff said. "I think I have an advantage. I am not any different than anyone else, I just have a title that allows me to reach more people."
She said she became involved in the issue in high school, when she observed how acceptable sex among teens had become, Huff said.
Huff said her belief in abstinence originates from her religion -- she is member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. However, she does not bring up her faith when she speaks to people about the issue because she believes there are so many other reasons to choose abstinence.
"You can see abstinence as a faith choice or a health choice," Huff said. "I have no guilty feelings, I don't have to worry about getting pregnant or catching STDs.
"It is not an easy choice, and I didn't get a lot of dates in high school."
She said she is dating now and will continue to practice abstinence until she gets married.
Huff wants to change the country's "Sin City" perceptions of Las Vegas.
"This will turn people's heads and help them see there is more depth to Nevada," Cross said. "I don't think we will be bringing her back. I think we will be leaving her there as Miss America."
The Miss America 2001 pageant will air on Sept. 22 at 8 p.m. on ABC, Channel 13.