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Living in McKeesport, Pennsylvania during the depression, Henrietta Leaver was forced to drop out of high school in 1934 in order to help her family make ends meet. She found work in a five and dime store.
Blessed with a grandmother who had bigger dreams for her, Henrietta was encouraged to enter the "Miss Pittsburgh" contest. She won. This instant celebrity brought the attention of famed Pittsburgh sculptor, Frank Vittor who sculpted the heads of three United States Presidents to extend an invitation to Henrietta to pose for him. She accepted, and was soon off to Atlantic City to compete for Miss America, with her grandmother serving as her chaperone.
When she arrived at Atlantic City's famed Steel Pier, she was alarmed to find out that for the first time contestants were encouraged to display some kind of performing talent. But, in a silver and green evening gown Henrietta sang and tap-danced to "Living In A Great Big Way".
"Was I nervous? You bet I was after I won the title but not before. I had never appeared in public before but when it was announced that the girls were supposed to display their talents before the audience I said that I would take a chance, so I sang and danced," Henrietta said. "I certainly was surprised to win!"
She was even more surprised the following month when Frank Vittor decided to unveil his statue of her. It was nude. Henrietta demanded that she had posed for Mr. Vittor in a swimsuit with her grandmother present at all times. She pleaded with Vittor to put some kind of covering on the statue, but the damage was done.
Trying to flee the east coast publicity, by early February Henrietta had found her way to Los Angeles, California and had been voted by 2000 department store buyers as "Miss Model America", as reported in the Associated Press.
This resulted in a brief but successful west coast modeling career before she married, moved back to the East Coast and began raising her two daughters, Patricia and Frances. Henrietta became involved with school and civic activities, enjoyed traveling as a favorite past time, and soon found she preferred living a more quiet life. "I've led a very full and happy life, with no regrets," said Henrietta, "I don't even know what ever happened to that statue". Henrietta Leaver passed away in September 1993 at age 77.