(STMW) — For the past five years, Stacie Juris has gone to Las Vegas to sit in the audience and watch the Miss USA pageant.

This year, it will be about 40 of the Tinley Park native’s family members who’ll be in the audience cheering her on as she competes for the title.

The pageant will air Sunday from Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino.

Selected as Miss Illinois Teen USA in 2009 when she was a senior at Lincoln-Way East High School and picked last December as Miss Illinois USA, the 22-year-old Juris said this year’s Vegas trip feels more like a vacation than work.

“It’s all so fresh and new,” she said of the experience so far.

Yes, contestants are making several appearances, sitting for interviews and constantly being photographed, but there’s plenty of time set aside for fun, she said during a recent phone interview from Las Vegas.

Juris arrived in Las Vegas on May 29 and is roommates with Miss New York USA, Joanne Nosuchinsky. Juris said she had a chance to meet many of the contestants, and that her itinerary on a recent Tuesday evening included a visit to Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar & Grill for some line dancing.

Juris entered the Miss Illinois Teen USA competition when she was a sophomore, then again in her junior year, when she was selected first runner-up.

“It was kind of on a whim, I had never done a pageant before,” Juris said of her first time in the teen pageant. “It seemed like, ‘Why not?’ ”

In 2011, she also was first runner-up in the Miss Illinois USA pageant, a precursor to the Miss USA competition.

Leading up to the pageant, contestants were asking family and friends to vote online, with the top vote-getters automatically being in the semifinals. However, those votes aren’t the sole determining factor in whether a particular contestant makes the final cut, Juris said.

“I’m hoping I won’t need the votes to get into the semifinals,” she said. “You can also be voted in by the judges.”

Prior to the actual pageant, judges conduct one-on-one interviews with each contestant, Juris said. During the pageant, which will be carried by NBC, the women compete in swimsuit and evening gown and also are asked questions by the judges, she said.

Along with her parents, Matthew and Kathy, Juris said her two younger sisters, 16-year-old Jodie, and Mallorie, 18, will be part of her cheering section at the pageant. Mallorie just finished up her senior year at Lincoln-Way North, and Juris said that being in Las Vegas forced her to miss her kid sister’s graduation.

“I’m really bummed out,” she said.

Her sisters have no plans to follow in their older sibling’s footsteps when it comes to taking part in pageants such as Miss USA, Juris said.

“They’re more tomboys,” she said.

Juris, who now lives in Chicago’s River North neighborhood, is a junior at Columbia College, where she is working toward a degree in fashion. She said her ultimate goal is to have her own dress boutique specializing in prom, bridal and pageant gowns.

Juris has her own business, The Queen Team, working as a freelance hair stylist and makeup artist for proms and weddings around the Chicago area.

(Source: Sun-Times Media Wire © Chicago Sun-Times 2013. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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