Pilgrim student Marie Balemian named Miss Rhode Island Italia Pre-Teen 2016

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Warwick resident Marie Balemian was named Miss Rhode Island Italia Pre-Teen during a pageant ceremony held at the Providence Marriott Downtown on May 22.

“It’s a great honor to have this title and it’s amazing to have this opportunity and all the doors that are opened up now,” Balemian said of her win during a phone interview last Wednesday.

With approximately 200,000 people of Italian-American heritage, Rhode Island has the largest Italian-American population per capita in the United States. The Miss Rhode Island Italia pageant pays tribute to their many accomplishments. The pageant receives support from local businesses in the form of advertising, congratulatory pages in the event program, or donated prizes for the winners.

Applicants must be at least 25 percent Italian-American by birth or ancestry, and must live and/or work in Rhode Island. Contestants compete on stage in formal wear and interview; there is no talent or swimsuit competition. The $100 registration fee is used to help defray the cost of the venue and prize packages. Age categories include: Little Miss, 7-11; Miss Pre-Teen, 12-14; Miss Teen, 15-17; Miss Italia, 18-26; Ms. Italia, 27 and up; and there’s no age restriction for Mrs. Italia.

Balemian, who is currently a freshman at Pilgrim High School and alumni of St. Kevin School, said this was her first pageant, but being a member of the Bishop Hendricken Competition Show Choir, which tours across New England, and the BHHS Theater program, she’s no stranger to the stage.

“I’ve performed in a lot of theater productions, but I always wanted to take it to the next level,” she said.

Balemian is also a member of the Pilgrim Drama Club and will be part of the Chorus next year.

In addition to filling out an application, Balemian said she submitted a resume of her theater experience.

“The pageant is all about Italian pride and what it means to be Italian, so we had to answer questions about that,” she said of the application process. “It was a lot of fun. The girls were friendly and it was a nice community.”

When asked what she enjoyed most about the pageant, Balemian said meeting all the other girls. There were approximately 20 across all age categories.

“I’ve stayed in contact with a lot of them,” she said.

Balemian said the pageant made for a long day, but it was worth it in the end.

“The rush to get in and out, get hair and makeup done, and get the dress ready; all the technicalities were pressuring,” she said.

According to the Miss Rhode Island Italia website, www.missriitalia.com, in addition to receiving a crown, official banner, professional photos, gift certificates and gifts from participating restaurants and sponsors, age division winners will have an opportunity to make appearances throughout the year, participate in parades, attend VIP events such as Styleweek and Waterfire, participate in fundraisers, and will possibly be chosen for a one-year modeling scholarship.

Balemian said she was excited about the opportunities for charity work.

“We get to go and make a change in Warwick or Rhode Island. We have the chance to do as much as we want,” she said. “I may do the pageant again when I’m older, but right now I just want to focus on the charity work.”

Balemian said she would recommend participating in the pageant to others.

“Overall, this was a great experience and I recommend anyone that is interested in pageants to do it because it provides a good foundation if you want to continue,” she said.

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