Miss America First Asian-American

Monday, October 16th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) — The last Miss America spent her year rallying the cause of veterans. Her successor is hoping one such patriot will help her champion the struggle of a younger audience.

Miss America 2001 Angela Perez Baraquio wants to devote her yearlong reign as beauty queen-cum-activist to teaching little kids to grow into decent, balanced people through ``character education.'' She hopes to enlist the help of America's Promise — a nonprofit group also known as the Alliance for Youth — and its chairman, retired Army Gen. Colin Powell.

``As a society, we must work together to guide each child to become a well-rounded individual and contributing citizen,'' she said, ``by infusing character development into every educational institution's daily school culture.''

Baraquio, 24, of Honolulu, knows something about being well-rounded.

The elementary school teacher overcame stage fright, a disdain for pageants and an unsuccessful pair of tries at the Miss Hawaii title en route to capturing a $50,000 college scholarship with her victory Saturday night.

Baraquio, whose parents are Filipino, said she didn't feel like a pioneer after becoming the first woman of Asian-American heritage to win the crown.

``It doesn't matter what (ancestry) you are. It matters what you are on the inside,'' she said.

The eighth of 10 children, she is a graduate of the University of Hawaii at Manoa who works as a physical education instructor and athletic director at Holy Family Catholic Academy in Honolulu.

Her parents own an exterminating company called Able Termite Control.

``They have a pest control company because they have 10 kids,'' she laughed.

Baraquio said she began entering pageants at age 18 to help finance college.

``I was the worst when it came to pageants,'' she said Sunday. ``But then I thought, well, it's a scholarship program. I needed money to go to college. I said `I might as well.'''

She finally became a Miss America contender, just as she reached the pageant's age limit, by winning Miss Hawaii this year.

Baraquio (pronounced bur-OCK-eey-oh) wept Sunday during her first news conference as Miss America 2001.

``All the Miss Americas came up to me last night and said, `Welcome to the sisterhood.' I said `Wow, I'm part of the legacy. I'm a part of the American dream,'' Baraquio said.

Meanwhile, Miss America Pageant CEO Robert Renneisen revealed Sunday that a preliminary judge had failed to disclose ``what could be perceived as a judging conflict of interest.''

Myron Martin — who judged three nights of preliminary competition leading up to Saturday's 80th annual Miss America Pageant — failed to tell pageant officials he was familiar with one of the contestants from a state pageant in which he'd served as a judge.

Martin was a judge in the 1999 Miss Texas pageant, one of whose contestants was Tara Watson. Watson made the top 10 on Saturday, based on scoring by Martin and the other preliminary judges.

Renneisen said pageant auditors confirmed that Miss Texas would have made the top 10 even without Martin's vote. Renneisen said he believed Martin's failure to disclose the information was inadvertent.


On the Net:

Miss America: http://www.missamerica.org