Pageant stresses empowerment and community impact.
As the Miss Minnesota competition gears up for the week of June 20–26, there will be a familiar local face vying for the crown—Angelina Amerigo, 20 (otherwise known as Miss Heart of the Lakes).
The seed for Amerigo’s interest in the Miss America Organization was planted during the summer of her senior year of high school. A competitive dancer since the age of 5, she had just completed summer nationals, where she won the dance title, and was on her way home from Florida when one of her mother’s friends mentioned the Miss America Organization.
Amerigo had been so involved with competition dance programs that she didn’t have time in her schedule to invest in new projects. “But, now that I had this opening, I was hungry for a new adventure and something new that would inspire me,” she says.
Although she had a background in competitive performance, Amerigo didn’t know what to expect going into her first competition in Purim, Minn. “I went into it pretty blindly,” she says. “But within the first five minutes, I met some of the girls that were there, and I knew I was in good hands. They were so amazing.”
Amerigo walked out of that competition with a crown and an open title: Miss Heart of the Lakes. Unlike a Miss America candidate titled to serve in a specific area (Miss Purim serves the Purim community, for example) open titles allow their holder to serve anywhere throughout Minnesota.
More of an emphasis on service is part of Miss America, which underwent a 2019 retooling to shift focus away from physical appearance (swimsuit competition was removed) and toward empowerment and community impact. Each candidate champions her own Social Impact Initiative, which she presents as part of the competition. Amerigo’s initiative, One Bottle, One Straw, One Bag, At A Time, was inspired by that senior year trip to Florida. “All of the beaches I went to were messy, and there was plastic everywhere,” Amerigo says. “We all bring something different to our social impact initiative. For me, I speak on reducing the amount of plastic in our oceans, lakes and rivers.”
Over the spring and summer, the Miss America Organization held a Service-A-Thon, with each contestant dedicating a minimum of five hours of her time. “I probably ended up doing 50,” Amerigo says with a laugh. Over the summer, she also visited beaches and parks to create a clean-up guide, with an accompanying video.
Overall, Amerigo finds the revamped version of Miss America much more inclusive and empowering as a competition. “When I saw that the competition was changing for the better and conforming to what our world needs, it was really inspiring,” she says.