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Contact: Christopher Heffron
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August 15, 2001   590 Words

 

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,” she says.

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.”

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Permission is granted to reprint this release.


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