Once Little Miss Destin Rodeo, Tian Kitchen, credits the pageant for her success in adulthood.
Kitchen and her family moved around a lot, but she did get to spend a few years in Destin from age four to seven.
"I always loved the white sandy beaches," she said.
When she was 18, she moved to Los Angeles in the pursuit of a modeling career. She was immediately "discovered" and ventured to Paris and eventually Miami Beach where she continued to work for magazines as well as act. She was even cast in Season 4 of "The Amazing Race."
And it all started at Shoreline Towers in the late 1970s when a 7-year-old Cythina Kitchen — she later changed her name when she signed with a modeling agency — was crowned Little Miss Destin Rodeo in front of a crowd of 350.
"My brother ran to the stage and tried to grab the statue the older girl had," Kitchen recalled. "I remember right before I went on stage my mom told me to smile so they know I like them."
That little nugget of advice has stayed with Tian who says she treats people to smiles everyday.
Kitchen never entered a pageant before or after her Little Miss Destin win, but she continued to take on new experiences in adulthood, like joining "The Amazing Race," a reality-based competition show that follows teams of two as they finish missions across the globe.
"I did...OK," Kitchen said with a laugh of her sixth place finish. "You just have to try the best you can. I loved doing it though. It was like a paid vacation. I got to travel the world, ride elephants and I jumped off a building in Italy."
After years of bouncing between Miami Beach and Los Angeles for work, Kitchen left the fast-paced world of entertainment for a quieter life in Charlottesville, Va., where she breeds and raises Friesian horses.
But it looks like she'll have the best of both worlds. Thanks to a large Internet following — she has about 4,500 Facebook followers — and her Los Angeles friends, Kitchen is in talks to possibly turn her day-to-day life into a reality series on A&E.
"Of course, it's kind of scripted, but I think it will be fun," she said.
While Kitchen has traveled the globe there is one place she hopes to visit soon. A place she hasn't seen for quiet some time.
"Ironically, my boyfriend's parents have a place in Destin, so I hope to be going there soon," she said. "I'm craving crab claws at Captain Dave's."
No matter what the next exciting thing she has planned, Kitchen still remembers that little girl who got to wear the Little Miss Destin crown.
"Winning that and realizing something like that can happen can really boost someone's confidence," she said. "It's a blast from the past."