FAIRBANKS (AP) -- Among beauty pageant contestants, Dominique Colell of Camarillo, Calif., may be unique.
Not every woman wearing an evening gown would fire up a chain saw during the talent competition.
''I've never been one to follow the lines,'' she said.
The 21-year-old former Miss Ventura County claims ice sculpting as her talent. After experimenting with ice for several years, Colell decided to join the big time in the World Ice Art Championships in Fairbanks.
''I'm not going for the gold,'' she said. ''I'm here to learn and have fun.''
Working meticulously to sculpt a vase of roses in the single-block competition Friday, Colell said she had picked up a lot of ideas and tips from other carvers. Even though she was distressed that her father, Bruce, had cut his finger with a chain saw that morning, and she was feeling drained due to dehydration, Colell plugged away at the details in her ice flowers.
Colell wore no makeup, jewelry or nail polish, and her uniform was ski bibs and bunny boots. She claims to be a tomboy who rarely wears dresses. She was a softball player in college and kick boxes, plays soccer and runs.
''I do every outdoor sport you can think of, and I love fishing,'' she said.
Colell took up ice art for the talent portion of a pageant she entered when she was a freshman at Moorpark Community College. She had recited poetry and not won a crown. She said she can sing and dance like many beauty contestants, but wanted something different.
She and her father had been on a cruise and were intrigued with the chefs' ice art.
''When Dad suggested ice carving, I said, 'Ha-ha,''' Colell said ''But he bought me a 10-pound block of ice and we got out his old chain saw and I kept practicing at an old picnic table.''
Wearing a red sequined evening gown embellished with beadwork flames, Colell surprised the pageant audience when she went on stage with a chain saw and oxyacetylene torch. She transformed a 75-pound ice block into a vase during her two-minute talent presentation. She earned the title of Miss Ventura County 1999 as part of the Miss America scholarship program.
As she advanced to the Miss California event, she had to get special permission to use her tools on stage. After agreeing to switch to an electric chain saw, she was off and running. That time she converted a 350-pound block of ice into a replica of the Liberty Bell.
Her mother teaches art and her father music. Colell had experimented with various art forms but never with subtractive sculpting. Suddenly, she had found her medium.
''I love it,'' she said. ''It's four-dimensional because it incorporates the dimension of time. Ice melts, and I like it better that way. I get pictures of it, and if there's anything imperfect it melts.''
Colell brought her parents on her Fairbanks adventure. Her father was her assistant and her mother, Kristi, volunteered in the Ice Park kitchen. Colell's cousin, Joe Higgins, a Coast Guardsman from Anchorage, also joined the corps of volunteers at the Ice Park.
A graduate of Oklahoma State University with a degree in studio art, Colell is pursuing a master's degree in education but is on a leave of absence. Her goal is to build a successful ice carving business in California, creating sculptures for weddings, parties and events.
As for future beauty pageants, Colell hasn't ruled them out.
''I'm still interested,'' she said. ''They are so much fun and I know so many beauty secrets, although I'm not using them right now.''
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