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South Florida Sun-Sentinel

Business Wire

J.C. Penney picks Hispanic models in Miami

June 29, 2003
Copyright © 2003
South Florida Sun-Sentinel. All rights reserved. 

MIAMI-- JCPenney hosted one of America's largest Hispanic model searches, Modelo Mundial-World Model 2003, at the Radisson Biscayne Bay Hotel in Miami on Saturday.

Willy Vega, 17, of Miami, and Jennifer Mejia, 17, of Puerto Rico, were selected as the national winners from a group of contestants representing 23 Hispanic markets across the U.S., Mexico and Puerto Rico. Vega and Mejia each will receive $10,000 in scholarship money, an appearance on Univision's network segment, Control, a professional photo portfolio and a $1,000 JCPenney giftcard.

The runners-up were Alma-Lucia Andrade, 19, of Phoenix, and Alexis Gueits, 21, of Puerto Rico, who will each receive $5,000 in scholarship money and a $500 JCPenney giftcard, among other gifts. The top four contestants also will have the opportunity to appear in future JCPenney advertising. These winners were among more than 2,000 students ages 16-21 who entered the model search this spring.

"This program not only provides concrete funds for the winners to continue excelling in their academic careers but it also gives them a sense of confidence and accomplishment knowing they were chosen out of a group that already represents the best of the best in the Hispanic youth market," said Sharon Saunders, JCPenney vice president and director of Employment, Administrative Services, Diversity and Work-Life.

In order to have competed in the Modelo Mundial Fiesta Finals, contestants must have currently maintained a "B" or better average in high school or an institution of higher learning. Because Hispanic youth represent the highest rate of high school attrition in the U.S., Modelo Mundial focuses on contestants' educational accomplishments and goals.

"Every contestant here tonight is a winner and a role model for their peers," said Saunders. "These young men and women are more than just beautiful. They are model Hispanic youth."

Entertainment was provided by Latin-pop icons Tito Puente, Jr. and Pilar Montenegro. The contestants walked the runway to the beat of "Oye como Va" while modeling sporty and fashionable apparel like Havanera and Arizona, found exclusively at JCPenney.

A distinguished panel of judges, including members of the fashion and beauty industry, selected the top four contestants based on one-on-one interviews, a runway fashion show, educational and career goals, and community involvement.

The judging panel included: Jeff Fuller, Karin Models agency director; Marion Koprowski, Elizabeth Arden sr. vice president of department store fragrance group; SIXTO Nolasco, photographer and makeup artist; Charlene Parsons, Miami International University of Art and Design chairperson; and Beth Studenberg, high fashion photographer and former model.

National co-sponsors of Modelo Mundial-World Model are the Havanera Co., Reebok, Mudd, The Original Arizona Jean Co., American Airlines, and Univision.

Previous contestants include 1999 winner, Denise Quinones, who went on to represent Puerto Rico in the Miss Universe pageant and was crowned Miss Universe in 2001.

J. C. Penney Corporation, Inc., the wholly-owned operating subsidiary of the Company, is one of America's largest department store, drugstore, catalog, and e-commerce retailers, employing approximately 230,000 associates. As of January 25, 2003, it operated 1,049 JCPenney department stores throughout the United States, Puerto Rico, and Mexico, and 54 Renner department stores in Brazil. Eckerd Corporation operated 2,686 drugstores throughout the Southeast, Sunbelt, and Northeast regions of the U.S. JCPenney Catalog, including e-commerce, is the nation's largest catalog merchant of general merchandise. J. C. Penney Corporation, Inc. is a contributor to JCPenney Afterschool Fund, a charitable organization committed to providing children with high quality after school programs to help them reach their full potential.

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