GFW’s Jenna-Leigh Hoffmann Competes in Miss UF

The freshman fashion enthusiast and philanthropist's primary principle is balance.

Niko Pifferetti


When Jenna-Leigh Hoffmann’s younger brother started fencing lessons, the 14-year-old dancer leapt at the opportunity to try something new.
 
Though quite different from one another, both fencing and dancing emphasize balance—a principle the University of Florida freshman and Miss University of Florida Scholarship Pageant contestant keeps at the center of her life.
           
Involved in Gainesville Fashion Week and the UF Retail Society in addition to training every day for a pentathlon, Jenna-Leigh knows a thing or two about balance.
           
“I always have fun with everything I do,” she said. “As soon as I feel like I’m getting a little stressed, I remind myself that there’s nothing to really be stressed about.”
           
That’s because, for Jenna-Leigh, there is always help from her friends, family and even strangers. The daughter of South African parents, she holds true to a philosophy beloved in her ancestral country: Ubuntu, or “I am because we are.”
           
“We are who we are because of others,” she said, offering her own interpretation. “We can’t be where we are and become successful on our own. We have to work with others to achieve our goals and help them achieve theirs.”
           
Guided by this belief, Jenna-Leigh is committed to helping others, and she’s done that by tapping into her enthusiasm for fashion and her long-standing involvement with Bakas Equestrian Center, a park in Hillsborough County that specializes in horseback riding for children with special needs. 
           
“I realized I wanted to combine my two loves of fashion and philanthropy, so I came up with a fashion show to raise funds for the Bakas Center to raise money for all these children,” she said.
           
At the end of her junior year of high school, Jenna-Leigh produced a fashion show fundraiser for Bakas called “Horse Shoes and High Heels.” Sponsored by Nordstrom, BJ’s Restaurant, Bay-to-Bay Market Place and Urban Exchange, the red-carpet event raised $3,000 for Bakas. More importantly for Jenna-Leigh, the fashion show helped bring smiles to the faces and confidence to the hearts of more than 20 young women.
           
“The show was all about them,” she said. “It was to give them a chance to feel like princesses on the runway.