When Emerson alumnus Michelle Nigro was 10 years old, she received a postcard in the mail inviting her to participate in a pageant. She talked to local businesses about sponsoring her, she looked through her old dresses, and finally, a week before the event, she asked her mother for a ride to Connecticut. Though she was “underprepared to say the least,” Nigro said she had the best weekend of her young life.
“I won Miss Congeniality even though I was a mess,” she said.
Nigro, along with graduate student Meagan Fuller and undergraduate student Molly Caron, will be participating in the upcoming Miss Boston pageant Feb. 16 at the Omni Parker House Hotel.
“I think it’s really a testament to the different awesome, talented ladies at the school,” Nigro said of the fact that three of the 18 contestants are or have been Emerson students.
According to Fuller, the pageant consists of five main components: talent, for which performances range from dance to spoken word; an on-stage question, which helps judges see how the speaker would hold themselves in public; swimsuit, which looks at how the ladies stay physically fit; evening gown, which demonstrates poise and presentation; and an interview, which relates to the participant’s platform.
Nigro’s platform is based around the organization Boston Bakes for Breast Cancer, a group she said she supports because of her love for baking, as well as a passion for breast cancer fundraising, in honor of her late aunt who recently passed away from the disease. Nigro credited the communications background she gained while majoring in broadcast journalism at Emerson for her ability to aid the company in rebranding and rewriting portions of their website.
Caron, a freshman marketing communication major, said that she got involved with the Miss America organization as an alternative to playing soccer after receiving a severe concussion in high school. Her platform is entitled, “You Can Make an Impact,” and relates to concussion awareness and testing. She said she is currently working at the State House with senators and representatives to pass a law to mandate baseline concussion testing for all high school athletes.
Fuller’s platform is “Knocking Out Dropping Out: Promising Success in School.” Fuller said the dropout rate in America is her personal issue of concern, and were she to win Miss Boston, her time and effort would go toward organizations focused on keeping Boston students in school.
Like Nigro, Fuller also said she entered her first pageant at the age of 10, and continued participating with the goal of accruing enough scholarship money to help pay for her future education. Fuller won the Massachusetts Junior Miss pageant in 2010, and said that she was able to pay for her undergraduate education with scholarship money.
“It’s because of organizations like the Miss America program that I’ve paid for grad school and have no debt,” she said. “Miss America has really helped me to pursue my career.”
Fuller said that another constructive aspect of pageantry is the interview portion. She said that thanks to pageants, she is not only more confident in interviews, but can answer any question that gets thrown her way, no matter how bizarre it may be. In a recent job interview, she said she was asked, “Meagan, what would you do with a brick?”
“It’s such an open ended question—what would you say to that?” she said. “But immediately, because I’m used to those kinds of unexpected situations, I can kind of think, ‘What can I showcase with this question that is relevant to this job, relevant to who I am, and relevant to what I’m going to bring to the table?’ Instead of just, ‘I’m going to build a house.’”
According to Fuller, who was the runner-up to Miss Massachusetts last year, the public appearances that go along with the title are her favorite aspect of pageantry. She said that being able to take her platform from the stage to the people is what she loves most.
“It really brings it home for people and they can see what being a titleholder for the Miss America organization really means in terms of giving back to the community,” she said. “There’s a bridge that you get with the Miss America organization that I really like. That’s why I keep coming back.”
Fuller most recently won the title of Miss Plymouth County, but said that if she were to obtain the title of Miss Boston, the win would feel much more personal.
“To have the opportunity to represent such a large city would be an absolute honor,” Fuller said. “Because this is my home — I go to school here, I live here; I live this. So to have the opportunity to represent the Boston people — there are no words to describe what that would feel like for me.”