It is still surreal to look back at one week ago and remember that yes, I was actually crowned Miss Staten Island 2017. I first got involved in the Miss America Organization in 2013, where I competed for the title of Miss Staten Island 2014. And by competed, I mean I kind of just did it for the experience. I had no chance of winning and I kind of knew that and was okay with that. I just wanted to say I did it. I wasn’t even necessarily planning on doing more than one pageant.
Too bad the pageant bug bit and I was hooked. I competed in 9 pageants before this one. Three of those were Miss Staten Island. I was born and raised in Staten Island so obviously the organization and titles (Miss Staten Island and Miss Richmond County) would be meaningful to represent. However, year after year, pageant after pageant, I never heard my name. Not even as a runner-up. It was easy to start getting discouraged.
I almost didn’t compete in this pageant. After the previous pageant I competed in, I questioned whether I wanted to continue. It was becoming exhausting to continue to compete and not place. My mom pushed me to just do it, because she didn’t want me to regret not doing it. So I decided that I was going into the process to just enjoy it because it would be my last time competing in this local organization.
And enjoy it I did. I had a lot of fun at rehearsals. I went to all of the interview prep sessions and learned a lot from the other girls and board members. I joked and laughed and just tried my best to make friends and cherish every moment.
Last Saturday was my interview. I knew going into this that the only way to do well was to stop trying to be what I thought other people wanted to me to be. I was 100% authentically myself in that interview. I joked around, was raw and honest and didn’t try to be a different person. I knew if the judges didn’t like me as the flawed person that I am, then that was fine. I walked out of the interview (after literally telling the judges “now I’m going to get food” as I was leaving) feeling confident and comfortable with how it went.
Sunday was the rest of competition and as nervous as I was, I felt good. I knew that if I gave my all and was completely and truly myself, everything would work out in the way that it was supposed to. I went on to that stage in every phase of competition and just enjoyed it. I knew it was my last time on that stage as a competitor so I wanted to take it in.
Awards came and that is when things started to hit me. I was first announced as Miss Congeniality, which was chosen by my fellow contestants. I was floored and thrilled. At that point, I could have lost and still won because that meant so much to me.
Then they went to call interview. Knowing the scoring system, I knew whoever won interview was basically guaranteed a spot in the top 5 (interview is 25% of your score). So I was standing there, definitely not expecting to hear my name. That is probably why when I heard my name for it, I was so shocked and excited.
Then, they were going to announce talent, but decided to put it off. Awards continued to be announced and I won another small scholarship. They then crowned the teens and I was thrilled to hear the names of two of the most amazing and deserving teens called. Gabby was Richmond County and Meghan was Staten Island.
We then got ready to call to top 4 (two runners up and Miss RC/SI). However, the said that first they were going to announce talent. At every local this season the talent winner has taken the title (or one of the titles if there were multiple) so I knew whoever walked away with this overall talent award was going to be one of your winners. What I did not at all expect was to hear my name called.
Seriously… does this look like the face of a girl who was at all expecting to win overall talent AND interview. Answer: not in the least.
At that point I knew. I was slowly but surely doing the math in my head. Interview is 25%. Talent is 30%. That is 55% of my overall score. I had the top scores in the two categories that are the highest percentages. I won. I had to have won one of the two titles. Next was to wait and find out which. That was horribly nerve wracking.
Side note: I know this probably sounds terribly cocky but it isn’t meant to. It is just how the scores work. I mean, it could have been completely possibly for me to have still not titled but the odds of that would have been very slim.
The called the second runner up. One of my close friends Alexa was called. I was immensely proud becasue this was only her second pageant as a Miss (instead of a Teen, which she was for years) and she has grown so much. The first runner up was Rose (who was just crowned Miss Manhattan yesterday and who I am so proud of and excited to work with, as we have similar platforms!).
Finally, it was time to crown the two titleholders. Miss Richmond County went to the girl who stood by my right all throughout crowning – Ashley. I was so excited for her because I knew she wanted to represent her hometown more than anything.
As she was being crowned it hit me. I was most likely going to be called as Miss Staten Island. ‘No way’ was all I could think. I turned to my friend Deanna who was now next to me and said “I think I won… I don’t remember what side they said to go to”. The whole moment of hearing my name called was surreal. I honestly don’t even remember a lot of what happened. I remember turning to Heather and Charista, the outgoing titleholders, and asking “is this real life?”.
I am just so grateful that for my last year of eligibility in this organization, I get to represent my hometown. I am grateful that my best friends were cheering me on and have been for years (from in the theater and afar). I am grateful for the friendships that this organization have given me. When I was announced as interview and talent winner and when I was crowned, all I kept saying was thank you so much. To the judges. To my friends. To my family. I am filled to the brim with thanks and probably will be for the rest of my life.