The Elements That Make a Miss New York
Kaitlin Monte talks about her journey, life in Astoria and anti- bullying
Calm and often humorous, Kaitlin Monte was hardly bothered that most cafes were closed one early humid morning when the recently crowned Miss New York sat down for an interview with It’s Queens. She even joked about going to a Laundromat. Luckily we stumbled upon Omonia Café on Broadway in Astoria, an area she often frequents. While sipping a frappe, Monte reflected on the final stage of the Miss New York 2011 pageant and described herself as placid. She was even afraid she lacked enough energy. Most would expect a bit of sweat and nerves especially in front of so many spectators.
But Monte had reached a place of tranquility, she told Its Queens. “The results of this pageant don’t change what I am,” she said.
With only two months to get prepared after winning a local title in March and many homemade and borrowed dresses, Monte won the Miss New York 2011 title on Saturday, June 18 at the St. George Theatre in Staten Island, and with it came a $8,500 scholarship, which went towards paying off her college tuition and loans.
The common thought about pageants is always that it’s about beauty queens, Monte noted, but she wants people to “drop the stigma.” “The girls who are winning these crowns are some of the brightest and most influential young women throughout the state and the country,” she said.
Her own professional journey began as a vocalist with a touring company, traveling to states like Colorado and Kansas. She moved to Florida at 16 to attend the University of Tampa and graduated with a B.A. in Performing Arts at 19. She had earned her first college credits in the 8th grade for engineering, allowing her to complete a whole college semester earlier. By the time college rolled around, this metzzo/soprano had performed in over 40 musicals and plays. In 2009 she made her off-Broadway debut in the musical The Hole. Monte’s sense of confidence stems from the reality of living independently since she was 16. Although daunting at first Monte said, she always wanted to be on her own. In 2009, after being selected by the United Service Organization Liberty Bells in New York, the official entertainment troupe for the military, Monte moved back to New York.
With family living on Ditmars Boulevard, Astoria, Monte opted to stay close by. “It felt like a small community, a secret hub almost,” she said when reflecting back on her introduction to the neighborhood. “You get to know restaurant owners and you become a familiar face.” Monte admires Astoria’s “family-feel” and its mix of young people and nationalities.
Monte was born in California but grew up in in Pittsford, New York. Located in Rochester county, it is a community with a population of 27,219. “It’s very sweet. The kind of place you can run into people all day,” she said. Monte is glad that places with a “specific personality,” such as Astoria and Pittsford, still exist. Less than a week after being crowned, Miss NY went back to her hometown to receive an inaugural public introduction. “It’s a long time since an upstate girl won the title,” she said.
Being the title holder is a 24-hour job, she said. When she is not attending events she is doing research, communicating with organizations, planning and remaining updated and knowledgeable on current events. Despite this, Monte finds time to attend improvisation classes at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater in Manhattan. For her, improvisation goes hand in hand with pageant work. “You become aware of your sense of humor and your personality,” she explained. She also makes the time to practice yoga and even squeeze in some healthy home cooking.
Still, her time is heavily invested on her Miss NY platform: Anti-bullying. Every title holder dedicates a year to a unique endeavor often derived from a personal place. “I dated a guy that brought me down a lot. He wanted to control me and got to me emotionally,” she said. Although it took her a while to part from the relationship, she finally distanced herself. “When you’re in the middle of being bullied it’s easy to think ‘this is all I deserve,’ ” she said. Her older sister also dealt with bullying. Although severely dyslexic, she attended college and received top grades. But before graduating, she received poor treatment from one professor, who was insensitive to her disability. The situation reached a detrimental point that forced Monte’s sister to drop the class. “He was being a bully and intimidated her away from her accomplishment,” she said. These days Monte supporting Achilles International, an organization dedicated to enabling people with disabilities to participate in mainstream athletics. Even before winning the title she served in the development board for the CityBarter foundation, a non-profit raising support for persons with disabilities. The Variety Boys & Girls Club of Queens, a local program in Astoria, recently made Monte an official partner. “The environment that they provide for kids is so positive,” she said. “You don’t see kids bullying and you don’t see that negativity because everyone is included and supported.” In June she attended and sang for the Bronx Art School Kindergarten Moving-Up Ceremony. Then she visited a classroom full of 5th and 6th graders and sat down for her first dialogue on bullying, which she plans to continue by visiting other schools while informing children and parents about the role that social media plays in bullying. ”It’s a great way to teach them these habits early on and what their rights are as people being bullied,” she said.
In August, Monte plans to visit hospitals upstate and travel to seven different cites. Then for four months it’s off to preliminary interviews and pageants before the Miss America 2012 pageant, which airs January 14 on ABC. During those four months Monte is set on proving herself through her platform. “[It’s all about] getting in the barracks with people and getting your hands dirty,” she said. When asked about the judging panel, Monte explained that the most important aspect in the competition is not the external.
“They can get your hair fixed, teach you how to put on make-up and get you to a gym. But they can’t make you a nice person and a smart girl,” she said.
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