Laiken Baumgartner has earned plenty of bragging rights as the newly crowned 2018 Miss Hooters International.
The 20-year-old Georgia native stood out among 80 other Hooters girls competing for the sports bar and restaurant chain’s 22nd annual pageant. Not only is Baumgartner the newest brand ambassador, but she also received a whopping $30,000 prize.
The two-time calendar girl spoke with Fox News about her biggest honor, why Hooters is really the place to be for families and why she probably won’t be pursuing Sports Illustrated anytime soon.
Fox News: Can you describe that moment when you heard your name and learned you'd won?
Laiken Baumgartner: I didn’t think I was going to win so I was actually preparing to walk to the side… I was in total shock when they called my name. It hit me two days later that I actually won.
Fox News: Who was the first person that you called?
Baumgartner: I didn’t have my phone, but my mom was the first person I was trying to get in touch with. I was freaking out. I ended up telling my grandma! But of course, she thought I was competing in Miss Georgia Teen USA. I kept telling her, 'No, it’s Hooters!'
Fox News: What are some misconceptions about Hooters you want to address during your reign?
Baumgartner: That you have to dress or look a certain way. We do have our uniforms, but they’re not booty shorts. They’re very appropriate for the many families that come in. We’re wearing the same amount of clothes that we would wear in the summer, if not more.
Especially when you’re training new girls and trying to recruit, you want to create a comfortable environment from the moment they walk in. It’s very different from the [risque] videos and photos you may find online. It’s not like that at all.
There’s always been that misconception. We wear our uniforms with pride. They’re iconic. We feel comfortable in them and we love wearing our shorts… And also, you’re allowed to be an individual. You don’t have to look the same… We’re not all blonde bombshells. I’m certainly not blonde and I’m the face of the company now.
Fox News: You won $30,000. What’s the first thing you plan on doing with that money?
Baumgartner: Saving it, 100 percent. My college education is probably one of the biggest things that’s valuable right now. And I also think it’s important to give back to the community. That’s something I learned very early on from Hooters.
For me, the animal shelter is very important. I work at the animal shelter twice a week on Tuesday and Thursdays. I go to discount stores to buy towels and toys. And now that I have this money, I can give back by offering better food for them.
Fox News: What was it like growing up in Douglasville, Georgia?
Baumgartner: Douglasville is really suburban. I went to a prep school for college, so I only graduated with 40 kids… It was simple and sheltered in a way.
You either go out to eat or go shopping. That’s really all there is. But when I started working for Hooters, my life changed really. The girls quickly taught me the ropes in getting out of that little bubble. It was eye-opening but certainly fun.
Fox News: What does this title mean to you?
Baumgartner: It means that I’ve got a lot of work set out for me. And I’m excited for it. This is something that I’ve always wanted since I started at Hooters a couple of years ago. It’s something that I’ve been working towards.
I grew up in a small town and Hooters was always a big deal for us. The high school girls, when they graduated, they would work there if they were still in town. We’re actually not that far from two major universities… I started working there as soon as I turned 18, like many of the college girls. I really wanted to be one of those girls that wore the cute uniforms and had so much fun at work with their friends… So I did!
Fox News: What’s a typical day like on the job?
Baumgartner: I actually like to work the night shifts behind the bar because it’s fast-paced. On Fridays and Saturdays, Hooters is the place to be! We don’t have a lot of big bars in town, so when people want to have fun, they come to our bar.
If you’re working a day shift, it’s typically going to be a little slower. But you will interact with your guests more. Either way, it’s all about smiling at people and greeting them, making them feel at home.
Fox News: How do you deal with critics?
Baumgartner: It was hard at first… As soon as I joined the company, I started getting more followers on social media, but I was also getting more nasty comments on some of my pictures. I really needed some guidance. But we have a big sisterhood here. They really helped me out in how to deal with it.
And the biggest advice I learned is just deleting it and move on. Don’t interact with them, don’t message them, don’t follow them, don’t comment – nothing. A lot of these people create accounts and take time out of their personal days just to bring you down. It took me two weeks to get it, but I’m really, really proud of myself. I’ve read some of the nastiest comments… But I just removed them from my page.
Fox News: Do you plan on pursuing Sports Illustrated Swimsuit in the future?
Baumgartner: I don’t know. That’s not really my thing. Some of it is a little too sexy for me. I’m more a goofy kind of person when it comes to my photos. And I love it. So I don’t know if I’m going to pursue modeling or anything like that. I certainly wouldn’t mind if it came my way and found me. I just don’t think I’m going to go out and search for it myself.
Fox News: What are some fun facts our readers should know about you?
Baumgartner: I’m almost done getting my pilot's license. My dad likes planes and he encouraged me to pursue it too. So that’s something I’ve been working on since I was about 15. The second thing is that I love to go fishing. I just prefer that than getting your nails done… I also love water skiing. I’m always on a lake if I could help it.