Connecticut Latina, Vanesa San Andres, blazes her way to the national Miss U.S. Latina Pageant. In 2013, Andres won the local Belleza Miss Connecticut Pageant. Then in November, last year, San Andres took home the title of “Miss Latina Connecticut 2015.” Now, San Andres is representing her home state in the most prestigious and longest-running national pageant established exclusively for Latinas.
The Miss U.S. Latina competition was created in 1983 to celebrate the beauty and culture of the Latina woman in the U.S., and allow these women the opportunity to compete in a pageant that would recognize their personal attributes, beyond beauty, and welcome their identification with the Hispanic ancestry. Furthermore, it established scholarships and other prizes to aid them in continued success.
This year’s Miss U.S. Latina competition will be held at the Barceló Colonial Mayan Riviera Resort in Mexico. From Aug. 30 to Sept. 6, 28 young Latinas from all over the U.S. (from the 28 states that hold state pageants) will participate in this competition, which allows Latinas to express their beauty, cultural pride, and personal achievements.
From this national competition a representative for the U.S. will be selected for the 2015 Miss Latina America of the World Pageant, allowing this individual more opportunities to engage their communities and make a difference.
This will be 21-year-old San Andres’ third pageant, and she says, “This is something entirely different for me. I’ve never done anything nationally so I’m really out of my comfort zone. But I’m really ready to take on this challenge.”
San Andres originates from the beautiful country of Spain and island of Puerto Rico. San Andres takes great pride in being Latina. Upon encouragement from a family member, she entered and won her first pageant in 2013, the Connecticut Belleza Latina Pageant, an organization founded in 2005 and known as the premier pageant for Latinas in the state of Connecticut.
“That was my first pageant at 19-years-old and I won it. That made me feel like I could achieve anything I want as long as I put my mind to it. And I decided at that point to continue in the field of pageantry and modeling.”
In order to participate in the Belleza Latina Pageant, participants must be a female, resident of CT and 25 percent of Hispanic descent. The next pageant San Andres won in 2015, the Miss Latina Connecticut competition, is open to all single females, ages 18-27, living, working or studying in CT, who are of Latin/ Hispanic descent and have no children. Both competitions are a preliminary competition for the Miss U.S. Latina Pageant.
Maria Torres, President & Founder, Belleza Latina Pageants, says, “We are proud and honored to provide the Latinas of Connecticut with an opportunity to make their dreams come true.”
San Andres’ favorite quote perfectly lends itself to this philosophy, “All of our dreams can come true if we have the courage to pursue them.”
With each win in the world of pageantry, Andres becomes more and more involved with her community. For the past few years Andres has become a servant to her community, volunteering at several local organizations that deal with helping Latinas with a variety of issues that plague her community. Her personal platform advocates awareness and prevention of AIDS and HIV. This is something she looks forward to endorsing at the national competition.
“My goal in these pageants is to benefit the community, the Latina community especially, and I want to talk about my platform, which is about AIDS and HIV. It’s important to me because most people don’t know about it, and some people might think that this disease no longer exists, and I just want to educate the youth, and teach them about preventative measures.”
Alex Rodriguez, father and manager and endearingly self-titled Pa-Manager (papa manger), says that while Andres has a big dream, sometimes big dreams are hard to obtain, and it’s sometimes the little things that make all the difference. He also says it isn’t about the prizes or about money for the team.
“Many winners look for sponsors to be able to do this,” says Rodriquez. “Whatever money they are going to give us, will not be enough. This is not about money. She is not in pageants because she wants to be the most beautiful one, but because of what it means. Sometimes it costs money to do things but it is helping her as well. Small price to pay to get my daughter exposed to issues that we care about.”
San Andres has been involved with many children’s organizations, has helped with the YMCA, and she has also worked with Latina Community Services, which is an organization that deals with helping the Latina communities with health issues. She has participated in outreach, fundraising, and basically donating her time in whatever way she can to her community.
“The Latina pageant’s motto is: You’re not just a model you’re a role model,” says Rodriguez. “What they are trying to instill in these girls is a sense of commitment, and responsibility to the community they live in. They stress they want someone who is giving to the community, involved with issues, and who is a role model. And this is my daughter.”
Through her philanthropy, San Andres hopes to carry the title as Miss Latina United States, with pride and dignity, while empowering Latinas to pursuit their passions and dreams.
“I’m very happy that I am able to show my diversity, because I’m mixed as well, so I want to also influence other girls be a good role model and a good leader for them,” says San Andres.
She encourages young Latinas to: “Stay in school. Education is the key to success; without it it’s really hard to find a good job. Just be a good person and help other people as much as you can. So stay focused and overall be happy with whatever it is that you choose.”
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