CT, MA Make Top 5

Miss Connecticut Bridget Oei and Miss Massachusetts Gabriela Taveras definitively showed that the New England states are indeed pageant states as Oei finished as first runner-up and Taveras placed as 4th runner-up at the Miss America finals competition on Sept. 9.

Oei impressed the national television audience with her high-energy Irish Step Dance that included a moonwalk tribute to the King of Pop, among many impressive movements. Taveras shined while singing a soulful rendition of “Rise Up,” a song that expresses much of the obstacles overcome by the Lawrence, Mass. native.

Both women impressed judges with their stage presence, as well as how they spoke in the competition’s red carpet phase, on-stage question contest, and a new phase, that included questions from the other contestants.

Taveras was asked, by Miss Wisconsin Tianna Vanderhei, about how people can improve face-to-face interactions in a world obsessed with social media.

“Simple put, it’s time to just put them down. Unfortunately, technology has made us dehumanize one another,” Taveras replied. “We start to look at people as Democrats or Republicans, black or white — there’s no grey area anymore and that’s really important in 2018. We’re not just one kind of person. We’re a multi-faceted, complex people, and the women on this stage — we represent that.”

Oei, who had developed a tracheal implant that powers pacemakers using a patient’s own breath, was asked by pageant judge Carnie Wilson what she wishes she had invented.

Oei replied by saying that a friend of hers had a stroke years ago, and she did not recognize the symptoms.

“I would like to invent an app that allows a person, when they see red flags, to go through the symptoms, [so] they know whether they need to get that patient some medical care,” Oei said.

On Friday, Sept. 7, New England Pageant News was able to sit with both Oei and Taveras for a second time during pageant week, and asked both how they were getting ready for the finals, and how it was to perform their talents on the Miss America stage during prelims.

“It was so exciting. So invigorating,” Oei said. “It was very honoring to perform on that Miss America stage and show America what Irish dancing is all about. I’ve had the time of my life since I began and I am just enjoying that stage.”

“Honestly, I don’t know what happened on that stage last night,” Taveras said. “In every phase of competition…I’ve kind of not been really there, which is interesting. I know I’m present, I know I’m there, but afterwards, I just kind of blacked out the entire thing. It’s like an out-of-body experience. When I went back and listened to my song on video, I was like ‘Oh, I really did do a good job.'”

About her chances of making top 15, 10 or 5, Oei said it was very much up in the air.

“Who knows,” she said. “I think that I’m giving it everything I’ve got, ad that’s all I can do. There are some things that you can control, and some things you can’t. I can only worry about Bridget. I’m feeling excited, feeling ready. Can’t wait to get out there and speak my truth.”

Taveras had a similar thought.

“I genuinely have no idea, because everyone had a great interview, and everyone is so accomplished. It’s really going to come down to what the judges are looking for. If you want someone who has a PhD, I’m not your person, because I don’t have a PhD. All I can do is hope that the judges saw something in me – that they saw how genuine and authentic I am, and just listening to my story and where I come from, and the impact that it can have on people.”

Oei’s first runner-up finish means that she did the best she could do, and still gets to go back home, which she was looking forward to.

“There’s so much more to do when I get home,” she said. “I have appearances set up. Schools are in session, so I get to talk to them about my STEM initiative. I really get to make an impact in Connecticut, and that’s what my year is all about, so I’m so excited to do that.”

 

Miss Massachusetts Nabs Two Big Awards

Miss Massachusetts Gabriela Taveras took home a STEM award worth $5,000 in scholarships and the preliminary award for on-stage question and private interview, worth another $1,000, in the Friday night competition at Boardwalk Hall.

“I”ve almost paid off my student debt with these two plaques right here,” Taveras said, excitedly, in the press room after that evening’s competition.

“I don’t really remember what happened on that stage, to be honest,” Taveras said, still somewhat in shock. ”

Taveras was asked what message, should she travel abroad as Miss America, would she bring to the world about our country.

As for the STEM award, Taveras explained that her mission was to hush people who doubted her.

“The reason I went into STEM was because I was told I couldn’t. I was told I wasn’t smart enough, and that I wasn’t going to be able to do it, so I said, ‘Well, watch me!'” she said. “Years later, I got my Bachelor’s degree in neuroscience.”

Describing the moment she learned she won the preliminary award, Taveras said she had something else on her mind just before that.

“I’m so surprised. I was standing there when they were announcing the interview winner, holding my breath, thinking ‘I just really can’t wait to order Chinese food later,” she said. “I’m just really blessed and excited to have this opportunity, and to show all the kids who are like me that you really can do whatever you want to do. I’m just so fortunate.”

Taveras thanked her local organization, the Miss Boston organization (she held the title of Miss North Shore when she competed for Miss Massachusetts this year, and was Miss Boston in 2017).

Miss Massachusetts was also asked how she was going to prepare for the finals, and keep her focus.

“Just have fun,” she said. “God has already chosen who Miss America is, so I can’t get so focused on the competition. I’m just going to have as much fun as I possibly can. If I’m the woman for the job, I’m the woman for the job. I’m just going to enjoy my friends, my sisters, for the next 48 hours.”

Conversation With…Miss Massachusetts

Miss Massachusetts Gabriela Taveras just had a few quick minutes between rehearsals to chat with New England Pageant News. The Lawrence, Mass. native said she’s extremely luck to be at the competition, and is taking it all in, while realizing that conquering her fears, and her difficulties growing up, have made this moment so much more worthwhile.

Despite being a little tired, will you be ready to perform your talent in tonight’s prelims?
I feel like adrenaline just takes over your body. You’ll be wired and just feeling like “This is your one shot, you’d better do it.” In rehearsal, the lights were on in Boardwalk Hall, so I didn’t feel like I was competing. I could see everyone. It was kind of boring.

How has your stay in Atlantic City been?
So much fun. Everything is good. I told the judges [in the interview room] that I wasn’t supposed to be here. I was supposed to be dead by the age of 18, and now I’m at Miss America. It’s so cool. It’s such a good time.

The sisterhood with the other girls — with all of the changes happening, how is that?
We’ve had to support each other, because of all the things that are going on. It’s traumatic. We’re not really talking about it, because we’re focusing on ourselves. The way I interpret it is that we are the reset button for the Miss America Organization. So, we have the opportunity to make it what we want it to be. There have been plans in place for the new Miss America 2.0, but ultimately, we have an opportunity to also contribute to that new identity of who Miss America is supposed to be.

And what is that?
Well, it’s great, because all of the women in this class are extremely accomplished. We have people who are going to get their PhD or start their own business or non-profit organization. It’s time for people to actually respect them for what they do.

What do you have to say to all of your people back in Massachusetts?
The thing that makes Massachusetts so special is that we are willing to take what we can give. When tragedy happens in our state, we all band together and try to make it better. When anyone criticizes our state, we band together and defend ourselves. It’s been so beneficial to me, because it’s gotten me far. I’m so proud to be from Massachusetts.