The Fort Myers native and the other finalists were chosen from hundr of submissions, according to Sadie Buckles, campaign coordinator for the national animal-rights group.
“It’s based on their general enthusiasm for veganism and living a vegan lifestyle, their personal stories and their photos,” Buckles said in early May. “Not only is Daniela a very attractive vegan, but she used to be a 4-H program participant. Now she’s a dedicated advocate for animals.”
Habermehl became a vegetarian seven years ago and a vegan two years ago. She’s also an animal-rights advocate who attends protests, plans to start a local sanctuary for abused and neglected farm animals, and travels to storm-ravaged cities to rescue abandoned animals.
Earlier this month, the Riverdale High graduate said she hadn’t considered applying to the annual contest. But then several friends persuaded her to do just that — not for bragging rights and not for the grand prize (an eight-day vacation to Hawaii), but for the chance to get her name and her cause out to the public.
“I’m not a fan of exploitation of myself and kind of the whole sexual side of how women are objectified,” said Habermehl, who works as a local IT manager. “But I just felt like I had to put myself out there for the animals.
“I’m really excited just to be able to share my journey to veganism and show people the truth behind the (meat) industry and also kind of educate people on the health benefits, the environmental benefits and the three pillars for me — for the planet, for the animals and for your health.”
Along with online voting, the winners were determined by a panel of PETA judges. The judges’ criteria included the quality of the contestants’ photos, their enthusiasm for the vegan lifestyle (based on submitted questionnaires) and how well the contestants have promoted the competition on social media.
Connect with this reporter: Charles Runnells (Facebook), @charlesrunnells (Twitter), @crunnells1 (Instagram)