|PHOTOGRAPHY BY FADIL BERISHA|
GIVE THREE ADJECTIVES THAT YOUR FRIENDS WOULD DESCRIBE YOU.
Adventurous, compassionate, witty.
HAVE YOU SEEN "50 SHADES OF GREY?" IF YOU HAVE, WHAT DID YOU THINK OF IT? IF YOU HAVEN'T, WOULD YOU SEE IT?
As a self-proclaimed bookworm, my one policy is that I have to read the book before I watch the movie and to be honest, I couldn’t make it through the first 50 pages. I have always been a huge fan of books with a strong female lead, and Anastasia Steele was super dull. I think the part where I put the book down was when she basically had an orgasm when Christen Grey blinked in her general direction.
DO YOU THINK THAT "SEXUALITY EDUCATION" SHOULD BE PART OF ELEMENTARY SCHOOL CURRICULUM IN AMERICAN SCHOOLS?
I remember when I was in 5th grade our teachers sent home a permission slip home with us asking if it was okay for us to be taught “Sex Ed”. Those of us whose parents said yes were taken to a separate classroom and taught the birds & bees from our health education teacher. The other students whose parents had said no, stayed in the regular classroom. It gave the parents the choice of how their children were educated, but also allowed room for Sexuality Education in the school curriculum. A happy medium for the educators and families.
WHAT ARE YOUR GOALS FOR THE NEXT FIVE YEARS?
Five years is a long time, especially at my age where there are so many opportunities waiting for you to grab; each leading down a different road. My top priority goals are to graduate with my advanced degrees in Law and Business, and find a job that I truly love. Ultimately when I answer questions like these, I always think of this Maya Angelou quote: “Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it.” In 5 years, my goal is to be successful in all aspects of my life.
IF YOU WON MISS USA AND ONE OF THE CANDIDATES TOLD YOU THAT YOU DIDN'T DESERVE THE CROWN, WHAT WOULD YOU TELL HER?
I think all pageant titleholders at any level have had to deal with negative feedback one way or another. You will never be able to control what people say but you can control the way you react. To most adversity I smile, hold my head high, and ignore the negative Nancy’s. At the end of the day Miss USA is a journey and it’s my dream. I wouldn’t let people who were unhappy with the results rain on my parade.
|PHOTOGRAPHY BY ANDREA'S MOM|
IS PHYSICAL APPEARANCE IMPORTANT? WHY OR WHY NOT?
To an extent. I believe that taking care of your body - physically and mentally - is a form of self-respect. Being proud of your curves, height, and all the bits of you that make you unique is important. That type of pride or in some cases embarrassment can be reflected on your outer appearance and how you take care of yourself.
DESCRIBE YOUR DREAM MAN (OR IF YOU'RE GAY, DESCRIBE YOUR DREAM WOMAN).
Rob Gronkowski. (But seriously- a goofy guy who loves sports and loves his momma)
IF YOU HAD TO BE ANOTHER WOMAN FOR ONE WEEK, WHICH WOMAN WOULD YOU CHOOSE TO BE AND WHY?
Beyoncé! I swear she could walk down a hallway and wind would still be blowing through her hair. That woman is flawless and I would love to see a day in the life, none the less a week, of one of the most inspiring women in today’s society.
WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT PAGEANTS LIKE MISS VENEZUELA PROMOTING COSMETIC SURGERY SO MUCH? IS THAT A POSITIVE OR NEGATIVE EXAMPLE FOR YOUNG WOMEN?
Promoting cosmetic surgery to win a pageant is a definitely negative example. Outer beauty is so subjective. Miss Universe, Miss Venezuela, Miss USA or any pageant out there is not looking for a girl that fits a mold, but someone who already is that person before the pageant started. Someone who embodies what the title stands for, who lives their life each and every day like a woman the organization would be proud to have as a representative. No amount of cosmetic surgery will help someone become that individual.
WHAT ARE YOU MOST PROUD OF ABOUT THE U.S.A.?
Nowhere else in the world is there such a mix of such different cultures coming together to live under one nation and one government. As someone who comes from a very international and cultured background, this is something that I am so proud of. Even in the little state of West Virginia our international community is growing and providing so much insight into the world around us by introducing unique foods, languages, and festivals. The United States is truly a melting pot and that is one of the many traits that makes me proud to be a citizen of this country.
|PHOTOGRAPHY BY GEORGINA VAUGHN|
IF SOMEONE IN YOUR FAMILY WAS TERMINALLY ILL AND IN AGONY AND ASKED YOU TO HELP THEM DIE, HOW WOULD YOU HANDLE IT?
I would be a complete wreck, just thinking about a loved one asking me this question tears at my heart. But I would put myself in their shoes. Is a life of pain and agony worth living if you’ve lived a wonderful life? If you have no regrets and could leave this world happy with the legacy you left behind, would the few days, weeks, months of pain, waiting for death’s call be worth it? I know that if I was in this situation I would be strong for the family that can’t be, I would be compassionate and understanding, but most of all I would do what is best for my family member.
HOW SHOULD THE U.S. GOVERNMENT RESPOND TO THE THREAT OF ISIS?
One of ISIS’s biggest weapons is social media. Their ability to use fear in order to recruit people easily radicalized has let ISIS and their causes grow out of control. Although this is not a black and white solution or problem by any means, it should be tackled quickly by a joint effort between multiple nations. One of the things our government could do to begin the response is by denying ISIS the attention that they are so desperate to receive. While it is important to know and understand what is happening all around the world, perhaps if the media concentrated on stories that counter the ideology behind ISIS, their recruitment efforts would be less successful.
VIRTUALLY ALL TERRORIST ATTACKS SINCE 9/11 HAVE BEEN COMMITTED BY MUSLIMS WHO JUSTIFY THEIR TERRORISM BY QUOTING VIOLENT ACTS FROM THE KORAN. THIS SUGGESTS THAT ISLAM MAY NOT BE A RELIGION OF PEACE. WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS? ?
Throughout history there has been many times where people pick and choose passages from religious texts to further their agendas. It’s heartbreaking that a group of radical extremists have corrupted so many minds with fear and hate while hiding behind a few passages from the Koran. While I am no scholar on the Koran, I believe it would be unfair to judge an entire religion based on the horrendous terrorist acts that have been committed by an ignorant and hateful minority group.
DO YOU SUPPORT LAWS TO REQUIRE MANDATORY BILINGUAL EDUCATION FOR ALL STUDENTS IN AMERICAN SCHOOLS?
As a trilingual ( English, Spanish, French) citizen in this melting pot of a country, knowing a second or even third language is extremely helpful. While I don’t believe it should be mandatory in schools, I do believe it should be encouraged. We live in a day and age where communication is becoming increasingly easy and important through various platforms such as social media. Furthermore for most careers, knowing a second language is just as beneficial to the employer as it is to the employee and customers.
PEOPLE SAY THAT MOST PAGEANT CONTESTANTS ARE RELIGIOUS. DO YOU AGREE OR DISAGREE?
I believe everyone on this earth falls somewhere on the religious spectrum. It’s hard not to have faith in a greater power when this world is so unique and filled with miracles. With that being said I do believe people who participate in any sort of competition tend to be more religious. It’s not easy putting yourself in a position to be judged by strangers, none the less on a stage to be judged by an entire audience, or in our case 5 million viewers on live TV. Pageants are a leap of faith- you need to have faith in yourself, and faith that God (or whatever higher power you believe in) is leading you in the right direction no matter the outcome.
CAN A PERSON WHO WAS BORN A MALE, BUT WHO HAS A SEX REASSIGNMENT TO BECOME FEMALE, BE TRULY A FEMALE IN YOUR OPINION?
I believe you are a male or female based on the DNA you are born with. But I also believe that a male can be a woman and a female can be a man. Society is so quick to divide us into our gender categories- little girls play with makeup and dolls, boys with trucks and tools. We each have the right to develop into the individual we feel most comfortable being. If for some that means being the opposite gender then who are we to judge or prevent that person being happy.
WHAT WOULD A POTENTIAL EMPLOYER LEARN ABOUT YOU FROM REVIEWING YOUR SOCIAL NETWORK ACCOUNTS LIKE FACEBOOK, INSTAGRAM OR TWITTER?
That I’m slightly obsessed with "Game of Thrones" and my grandma’s chihuahua, I love corny jokes and sarcastic humor, and my coffee addiction is getting a little out of control.
WHAT HAVE YOU GAINED BY COMPETING IN PAGEANTS?
What have I not gained? Without pageants I would be a completely different person! Pageants have given me my best friends, a second family, a better understanding of who I am and who I aspire to be. Not to mention I don’t even sweat interviews and public speaking is second nature to me. I am so blessed that I randomly decided to do one and the pageant bug bit me hard! Pageants are so much more than what meets the eye.
SOME STATES STILL PRACTICE THE DEATH PENALTY AS PUNISHMENT FOR HORRENDOUS CRIMES. DO YOU THINK THAT IT SHOULD BE ABOLISHED? WHY OR WHY NOT?
I understand there is a need for closure when it comes to tragedies that deserve the ultimate punishment of the death penalty. But to me, I believe that a life isolated in a small cell, with nothing but your own thoughts to keep you company for the rest of your days is more punishment than the escape of death. Then again, each horrendous crime is different, but each ruin the lives of more than just the person involved but the families of all affected.
COMPARED TO THE 1950s-1970s, WOMEN TODAY HAVE MORE OPTIONS IN TERMS OF THEIR PERSONAL CHOICES AND PERSONAL LIVES. DESPITE THESE OPTIONS, WHY DO YOU STILL WANT TO BE MISS USA?
As someone whose ambition is directly tied to making sure my actions, career, and dreams will help make a positive difference in today’s society, I would be so honored to play a part in the Miss Universe Organization’s legacy. Miss USA comes a spotlight that I could use to further advance the cause of gender equality. I plan to use my recognition in advancing not only this cause, but many others, by working with organizations, charities and philanthropies to help make a difference on a local and national scale.
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Thank you, Andrea, for granting us this interview