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The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

Fit to be king
Lilli Dellheim '25 M.A., Special to the Hawk • July 13, 2024

A touch of sparkle

Marina Maida ’19 after winning the title of Miss Wilkes Barre/Scranton. PHOTO COURTESY OF MARINA MAIDA ’19

Student finds confidence through competition

Marina Maida ’19 was severely bullied by her classmates during middle school.  She described herself as being a classic dorky 11 year old, which drew attention from other kids at school.

“Kids would throw things at me on the bus, girls were really nasty to me and people had MySpace pages dedicated to being really awful to me,” Maida said. “My school didn’t do anything about it.”

Years of bullying had negative effects on Maida’s self-confidence and interpersonal skills.

“I couldn’t look people in the eye, I read constantly and I had maybe one friend,” Maida said. “I would keep my head down in the halls and I read five books at once just to avoid talking to people.”

Despite her low self-esteem, when 12-year-old Maida got a flier in the mail about a local National American Miss pageant in her small town outside of Scranton, PA, she thought it might help her social skills to give it a try.

Through this pageant, and other local ones, Maida was introduced to the Miss America organization where she has continued to compete in pageants since.

Due to the rigorous components of pageants, like private interviews, creating a platform and answering sophisticated questions publicly, her confidence and social skills flourished.

“It actually makes me tear up a little bit,” said Susan Maida, Marina Maida’s mother, who drives Marina to every pageant affiliated event. “She had a really tough time when she was younger and the pageants gave her a voice and a platform that made her stronger.”

While competing as a teen, Maida ran on the platform of bullying prevention to advocate for young women like herself.

A pageant contestant’s platform is a cause that she supports to either promote awareness, raise money or implement a program she has created that will help address issues related to her cause.

Although pageants boosted Maida’s self confidence, she clarified that it was not the make-up and dresses that made her feel better about herself.

She gained comfort in not only herself, but through her grounded thoughts and opinions.

“Having the opportunity to be someplace where I can advocate for something, and not see that someone was advocating for me, made me feel comfortable in my own skin,” Maida said.

This December, while running on her current platform that allows her to advocate for career and college readiness, Maida won the title of Miss Wilkes Barre/Scranton by competing in a local Northeast Pa. pageant.

Marina Maida ’19 with Elisa Rivera, who has gone to the Miss America pageant with Maida for two years.

Maida’s platform was shaped by her own experiences at St. Joe’s. During the first semester of her freshman year, Maida felt overwhelmed by the amount of careers she never realized were possible to pursue.

“It was one of those situations where I made use of all the opportunities and resources I had available to me,” Maida said. “My platform is just reaching out and being a call to action by saying you can make your own opportunities with networking and mentorship.”

Although pageant contestants are required to run on charitable platforms, Maida’s mother said that she is still concerned about how the media portrays young women who participate in pageants.

The self-growth and skills that pageant contestants gain from these contests are often overshadowed by fictional drama perpetuated by the media.

Maida attends a charity event with her sash and tiara.

“You wouldn’t think that, [with] these shows like ‘Toddlers and Tiaras,’” Maida said, “I don’t know if it gives you the right picture of what it is all about.”

Charlie Kasko, executive director of the NEPA Scholarship Pageant Association, works closely with Maida as her director and also clarified that the true importance of pageants isn’t the outward appearance of the contestants.

“What makes the organization so unique is girls like Marina have this ability to make a difference in their community,” Kasko said. “Its real effect is what all these girls like her all over the country do with their lives.”

In addition to the tremendous skills and opportunities that Maida has gained from participating in pageants, she is also thankful for the sisterhood that the pageant community offers.

“You make friendships that literally withstand the dresses,” Maida said. “I don’t fit in half my dresses anymore, but I am still friends with the people that I was wearing them with.”

Currently, Maida is preparing to compete for Miss Pennsylvania through the Miss America organization.

Due to restructuring in the Miss America organization as a result of eliminating the swimsuit portion of the pageant, the date of the Miss Pennsylvania pageant has not been finalized.   

Although she does not know the exact timing of the pageant, Maida is excited at the prospect of being able to share her platform statewide and participate in more philanthropy events.

“In reality, it’s just young women like you and me trying to make the world a better place,” Maida said. “We just have some sparkle on our head.”

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