This year’s Miss America pageant will host young women from across the nation, Puerto Rico, Washington, D.C. and the U.S. Virgin Islands in a competition that’s the one to watch this weekend. The pageant – which was founded in 1921 – remains to this day the country’s largest scholarship benefactor. And yet, with more than fifty accomplished women who will take to the stage at the Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas, only two – Miss Puerto Rico and Miss New Mexico – will be representing Latinas. Eager to learn more about these beautiful Latinas? Here are five facts about who we’ll be rooting for this Saturday when the pageant is broadcast on ABC at 9/8c.
Miss New Mexico Candice Bennatt
She wants to make a difference: This 23-year-old is passionate about helping others: once a victim of domestic abuse, she wants to earn a law degree and become a family attorney.
No baton twirling here: Bennatt is an accomplished dancer (she’s even worked as an NFL cheerleader!) and will be showing off her skills on the dance floor in the talent portion of the pageant. But the road to pursuing one of her passions wasn’t always easy, says Bennatt.
“My mom worked several jobs to be able to afford me dance lesson and other extracurricular activities,” wrote Bennatt on her web page. “I danced since the age of three for a community dance school, then high school dance team and then honorably as an NFL cheerleader. I feel so lucky to have ever made it to the see the day of achieving some of my early goals of graduating college, dancing for an NFL team and speaking on a national political radio show.”
She loves speaking to youth: Bennatt frequently travels in New Mexico and Texas, where she’s from, and delivers speeches to high school youth about dating abuse.
“When I speak to high school students,” said Bennatt said in an interview with the Texas Tribune, “I focus on breaking the cycle of domestic violence. Specifically, I discuss dating abuse and prevention.”
Miss Puerto Rico Kiaraliz Medina
She’s borinquen bred and Puerto Rico proud: Medina, who was raised in the town of Moca, is thrilled about representing the tiny island on the national level.
“I am extremely grateful for the opportunity given me to represent my people and I will proudly,” she wrote on her Facebook page. “I want to be the example not only for Puerto Rico, but also for the world. I have the privilege of having a huge support group such as my friends and family. Thank you very much. I promise not to disappoint.”
She’s a family girl: Medina is one of four sisters and with about 30 uncles and aunts, has over 100 cousins.
Her platform is self-empowerment: Medina’s platform issue is “The Power Within Us,” a statement which she’ll be taking to heart as she competes in this year’s pageant. If she wins, she will be the first Miss Puerto Rico to wear the Miss America crown.