There aren't many Hooters stories that can bring a grown adult to tears. But Tiffany Saint's journey to the infamous restaurant's International Swimsuit Pageant might get you pretty close.
The tale begins three years ago at a popular Hooters location in Humble where Saint was waiting tables. A rather sick-looking four-year-old girl from Alabama, along with her father and grandfather, took a seat in the waitress' section after a trying day at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center.
"They told me the girl's name was Brynn and that she had been battling cancer, which finally went into remission," Saint told CultureMap from Miami, where the 16th annual swimsuit competition takes place this weekend at South Beach's Jackie Gleason Theater. "She amazing, though, and so full of energy considering she was missing her hair and had to wear an external bladder."
"One of the producers said he was excited to show the world that the girls in the contest have big hearts," Saint said.
Saint spend a good portion of the meal doting on Brynn, playing with the little girl as her family enjoyed a meal of chicken wings, the restaurant's speciality. The waitress said she was so enamored by the girl's spirit that she gave her a "Future Hooters Girl" T-shirt. She remembered being able to keep her cool until Brynn kissed her and told her she loved her. After the 4-year-old left with her father and grandfather, Saint ran to the back of the restaurant for a good cry.
"I Googled 'Brynn' and 'M.D. Anderson' the second I got home and found some articles about her. I found her mom's email and asked about seeing her again. Her mother was obviously hesitant at first, but ended up allowing me to visit the next time they were in Houston."
Unfortunately, the family was back in town only months later when Brynn's cancer returned for the last time. Saint said she spent as much time as she could with the little girl before she passed away. "Even though the situation was so horrible, she was strong and knew she would go to a good place in the end. It had such a positive impact on me and the way I see the world. It was a sad time, but one that also made me feel grateful, " Saint said.
As Saint found herself in the semifinals in the Hooters International competition, pageant organizers asked each contestant for a personal anecdote about working at the restaurant.
"I told them the only story I had was kind of a downer, but when they heard it, they thought it was so touching that they wanted to feature it during the show when it airs on TV (on FX, Saturday at 9 p.m.). One of the producers said he was excited to show the world that the girls in the contest have big hearts."
Television crews spent several days in Humble, recording a segment that will tell Brynn's story during the ceremonies.
"I'm so glad I work at Hooters where I can meet such incredible people like this," Saint said.
Tiffany Anne Saint goes up against 100 other contestants for a $50,000 cash prize in the Hooters International Swimsuit Pageant. The finals will be broadcast on FX Saturday at 9 p.m. Saint has an additional chance at the $10,000 Hooters Viewer's Choice Award — click here to vote.
Brynn's parents are asking those interested in making donations on behalf of their daughter to contact the cancer outreach organization Chemo Angels.