As a little girl, Merlix Ventura competed in local beauty pageants in Upper Manhattan and won every time. But by age five, success had gone to her head and her mother stopped letting her compete.
Now, a junior at The City College of New York majoring in political science and minoring in Jewish studies, Ms. Ventura is competing again. She is one of 300 women, and one of three from CCNY, vying to become Miss New York USA. The pageant, which leads to the Miss Universe contest, will be held January 13 – 15 at SUNY Purchase.
“My mom says I was ‘born in heels;’ that (being a beauty contestant) was what I was meant to be,” the Washington Heights resident said. “But, she took me out of the contests because I started acting like a brat.” Fortunately, she dropped the brat act a long time ago.
Indeed, Ms. Ventura, who was a 2008-09 Koch Scholar at City College, says the only time she doesn’t opt for high-heeled footwear is when she works out. As a part-time fashion model, Ms. Ventura, who stands 5’ 5” in her bare feet, holds her own on the runway alongside taller women because she is accustomed to wearing platform shoes with eight-inch heels.
Being a pageant contestant is about much more than one’s looks and what to wear, however. Ms. Ventura says she needs to raise approximately $2,000 to compete. She has gotten Designs by Alicia P, a jeweler; Divina Shoes, and KB Model Agency to sponsor her, and she promotes them through her Facebook page and other venues. When not studying, she practices interviewing skills and pageant etiquette, and she works out at the gym daily.
She also is very involved in charity work. She helped organize a gala benefit for the North American Family Institute’s Youth Link program that drew 150 attendees, and has worked with the Community Association of Progressive Dominicans, which provides after-school life skills training for children 5 – 10. In addition, at age 14 she and four other young women established Da Urban Butterflies, a youth group for women of color in her neighborhood that has status as a 501-c-3 nonprofit organization, and recently received a $55,000 grant from the Union Square Awards.
Another CCNY student, Kritzie Roberts, is also trying to become Miss New York USA. Ms. Roberts, who hails from Flushing, Queens, is majoring in broadcasting with a minor in journalism and aspires to become a news anchor. She is competing on a platform of raising awareness of children in need, particularly those who are ill or have been bullied, and she has volunteered at St. Michael’s Parish in Flushing.
Editor's note: After this article was published, we learned of a third City College student in the competition, Jennifer I. Lopez. Ms. Lopez is a sophomore from Harriman.
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Miss New York USA Pageant