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Cape’s Ruffino finishes second in Hooters’ pageant

By Staff | Jul 24, 2013

Cape Coral’s Francesca Ruffino knows how to draw a crowd, especially when it’s time to put on a swimsuit.

On Sunday night at Hooters, she did just that after the Hooters Girl finished as first runner-up during the 30th Hooters International Swimsuit Pageant held at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas on June 27.

The winners were revealed last night when the pageant premiered nationally on FOX-Speed TV.

The Hooters of Cape Coral, 3120 Del Prado Blvd., hosted a celebration for Ruffino during a pageant viewing party Sunday, where Ruffino signed autographs, took pictures with local guests and celebrated with friends and family.

Ruffino, 19, reached the second spot out of 60 contestants from around the world. Ruffino, who has worked at Hooters for a year, will receive a $10,000 prize from the pageant.

“When it got to the top two, I couldn’t believe I was there,” Ruffino said. “You’re going to be a little upset about finishing second, but I was so honored to finish second. I wasn’t expecting to be in the top 10, so I’m very thankful.”

She said it was a long road to get from Cape Coral to Las Vegas. She competed in local and regional swimsuit contests along “The Road to Vegas” for one of the 60 spots in the 30th Hooters International Swimsuit Pageant.

“I took part in a calendar tryout and did two local bikini contests in Fort Myers and Naples and finished first in both,” Ruffino said. “From there, I was asked to go and I said yes.”

Ruffino, an Island Coast High graduate, said Hooters selects a certain number of girls from each franchise and this year they only selected two.

When she went, she said there was so much to do, everything was like a blur. By the time it was over, everyone was exhausted.

“They set everything up for me and my marketing director told us what to do,” Ruffino said. “We had photo shoots and interviews because we’re doing the calendar and paparazzi shoots, which are little videos set up for the pageant.”

Ruffino said they had interviews that allowed the judges to know more about the person on the inside, as well as a pre-pageant where the girls had to wear a costume that represents their hometown. Ruffino was a coral goddess.

During the actual pageant, the contestants wore a bikini and walked the runway in front of the judges.

Among the celebrity panel of judges included mixed martial artist Chuck “The Iceman” Liddell and former NFL wide receiver Terrell Owens.

The pageant contestants were selected from more than 18,000 Hooters girls who work in one of the more than 400 Hooters worldwide.

Marissa Raisor of Shelbyville, Ky., was crowned 2013 Miss Hooters International. Ruffino said she became great friends with her and all the finalists and expects to be doing a lot of work with them in the next year.

Which means her work is going to take her away from her home store quite a bit.

“I’m going to try to be there as much as I can, but when I have to travel I won’t be able to work, so it will take away from me being there,” Ruffino said.

Hooters is the franchisor and operator of more than 412 locations in 44 states and 27 countries. The first Hooters opened in 1983 in Clearwater.