Miss America Maintains Priorities During Whirlwind Year
CINCINNATI—Hawaii’s Angela Perez Baraquio was not the favorite to win the 2001
Miss America competition. Being a child of Filipino immigrants, the odds were
stacked against her; no other woman of Asian descent had ever won before. Nevertheless,
on October 14, 2000, Baraquio defied skeptics and made history by being crowned
the winner. Her secret? A strong belief in herself...and God.
Baraquio’s extraordinary life, unwavering faith and unlikely victory
are all featured in the September
cover story of St. Anthony Messenger entitled A
Catholic Miss America: Angela Perez Baraquio. In the article,
author Jay Copp writes of Baraquio’s life as a first-generation
American, her passion for family and character education and
her desire to use her visibility as a means to do God’s work.
The story can also be found at: http://www.AmericanCatholic.org.
In the early 1970s, Claudio and Rigolette Baraquio left the Philippines to secure
better lives for their children, settling in Oahu, Hawaii. As the eighth of
10 children, Angela was an inquisitive child who craved knowledge and a sense
of who she was as a Catholic. Despite being raised by devout parents, Baraquio
refused to accept blindly what was expected of her. Through research and self-examination,
Baraquio made the conscious decision to become Catholic.
“I chose to be Catholic,” Baraquio says, and
insists that her faith is “a gift.” Such dedication would prove essential when
vying for the title of Miss America.
As a young woman in need of money for college,
Baraquio entered her first pageant at age 18. Although she won some preliminary
competitions, she lost the first Miss Hawaii pageant she entered. Despite this
setback, Baraquio managed to graduate from the University of Hawaii with a degree
in elementary education. After college, she accepted a position as a physical
education teacher at her alma mater, Holy Family Catholic Academy.
For Baraquio, teaching became a way to give
back. “I wanted to make a difference, to leave a legacy. If I can have an impact
on one child, affect one person, that’s great,” she says.
Baraquio’s next and final attempt to become
Miss Hawaii came in the form of a dare from two of her students. Reluctantly,
she agreed...and won the pageant. Next up was the Miss America competition,
held in October in Atlantic City.
Wowing the crowd in the evening gown competition,
eliciting praise after her hula routine in the talent competition and showing
a passion for education during the interview, Baraquio edged out the favorite,
Miss Louisiana, and was crowned Miss America, 2001.
Her life since then has been a whirlwind. Meeting
with legislators, civic leaders and journalists, traveling approximately 20,000
miles a month and giving hundreds of speeches are exhausting and can impart
moments of doubt and fear, but Baraquio’s faith helps to keep her centered.
“When I’m alone, tired, scared or nervous, I can always count on my faith,”
With the title came over $100,000 in scholarship
money, which she will use to secure a master’s degree. Her dream is to become
superintendent of schools in Honolulu. But for now, Baraquio is content with
living out of a suitcase, traveling from city to city, hotel to hotel.
“The title of Miss America does not define who
I am. I’m a daughter, sister, friend, aunt,” she says. “The foundation of who
I am is my faith, family and education.”
Permission is granted to reprint this release.