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Meet Maria Salerno: Local Royalty

Miss Kenosha is one of the most headlined events in the Kenosha area. Many women compete in a series of events, and the winner is granted a spot to compete for Ms. Wisconsin. Carthage College’s very own Maria Salerno has recently won Miss Kenosha, but she is much more than local royalty. She’s a junior planning on graduating December 2018. She’s involved with the women’s tennis team, Enactus, Pi Sigma Epsilon, Pi Delta Chi, and she’s the Career and Personal Development Director of Chi Omega and Public Relations Director for Special Olympics Club. If you’re thinking, how?! Me too. Despite her busy schedule, I was able to contact my dear friend Maria and break down what Miss Kenosha is all about.

Photo courtesy of Ali Jagielo

HC: What is the Miss Kenosha pageant? What’s the process?

MS: The Miss Kenosha Scholarship Pageant provides a platform for young women in the area to make a difference in their community for a cause they feel passionate about. Essentially, the role of Miss Kenosha is to represent the city of Kenosha on the Miss Wisconsin stage and take her platform to the state level. There are five phases of competition: Interview, Swimwear, Talent, Evening Gown and the On-Stage Question. Contrary to popular belief, the competitions in the Miss America Organization aren’t ‘beauty pageants’; the Interview, Talent and On-Stage Question make up around 75% of the competition. There are no height or weight requirements—anyone is welcome to compete! The pageant is so much more about your passion, intelligence and involvement in the community rather than beauty.

HC: What was your specific process in preparing for the pageant? Were there any challenges? Favorite part?

MS: We had rehearsals in the two months leading up to the pageant to go over walking patterns and to rehearse talents on stage. My favorite part of this was getting to know the other contestants! We all bonded during rehearsal, and even though a few of us went to the same school (Carthage), I never would’ve had the opportunity to meet them if it wasn’t for the pageant. The hardest part of the preparation for me was my talent. I was on a study abroad trip in Sweden for the two weeks leading up to the pageant. I got off the plane on a Wednesday and competed on Saturday, so it didn’t leave much time for final preparations!

HC: What made you decide to go through the pageant?

MS: My platform, Disability Acceptance and Inclusion, is easily the reason why I decided to compete. This stems from a very personal journey. My older brother, Nick, was born with a rare form of spastic cerebral palsy. He’s nonverbal and has lived his life from the seat of a wheelchair. However, he’s completely cognitive and can have a conversation with you in the form of yes-or-no questions. He’s my inspiration! Unfortunately, many people don’t see Nick the way that I see him. Throughout his life, he’s been teased, ridiculed, excluded and discriminated against because of his disability. My hope is that, through my platform, I’ll be able to help promote the inclusion and acceptance of individuals with disabilities in the greater Kenosha community!

HC: How do you plan to prepare for Miss Wisconsin?

MS: Practice, practice and more practice! I’m going to do all that I can to feel prepared, especially for the Talent and Interview portions. I’m also going to be as involved as I possibly can in the Kenosha community! Whether it’s supporting local events or promoting my platform, at the end of the day, I want to be able to say I’ve made a difference in the city I grew up in.

HC: What are some events that you’ve been attending now that you’ve won?

MS: It’s only been almost two months since I’ve won the crown, and since then, I’ve made a couple of appearances already! My first was at the Night to Shine prom, a nationwide event created so individuals with disabilities can experience the joy of prom. I visited an elementary school to promote my platform, and I’ve also attended a benefit gala to support the Open Wings school, an educational institution designed to promote a more inclusive learning environment for students with special needs. I’ve also had the pleasure of attending the Kenosha Snow Daze Winter Festival, and I’ve done a radio interview as well!

HC: What’s your favorite event in the pageant?

MS: Hands down, my favorite event in the pageant was the Interview. It’s the time when you can speak freely about your platform, and let your true personality shine through to the judges.

HC: What has changed in your life since you’ve won?

MS: I’ve always been relatively shy, so making public appearances has helped me grow tremendously with my communication skills. I feel more confident in myself in all aspects of life, whether it be work, school or pageant-related activities. I feel like I’ve already grown immensely throughout my time as Miss Kenosha, and I still have so much time left!

HC: Is there anything else you want readers to know?

MS: I’m truly so passionate about this job, and I can’t wait to make a lasting difference in the community!

Miss Kenosha is so much more than spending money to look beautiful. Maria Salerno has proved that it takes so much more to be on this kind of platform. She is truly an inspiration that I aspire to be.

Rep image by the Kenosha News

Ali Jagielo

Carthage '19

Ali is a senior at Carthage College majoring in English with a double minor in Communications and Public Relations. She is originally from Westmont, IL, but wishes to one day live in Chicago. She is a proud member of the Beta Lambda chapter of Chi Omega here at Carthage. When she is not working or in class, she loves to spend her time reading, watching Netflix, or going on adventures with her friends.
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