FAIR LAWN, N.J. – Celinda Ortega of Fair Lawn has been pretty busy over the past few months.
The 22-year-old Montclair State University graduate has been keeping track of current events, singing with a vocal coach and practicing walking in heals and posing.
It is all to get her ready for the Miss New Jersey pageant in June, where she will be competing against 27 other women from around the state for the Miss New Jersey title. The winner goes on to compete for Miss America in September.
Ortega – who holds the title of Miss Bergen County 2017 -- knows beauty isn’t only skin deep. And she has made it her mission to help young girls realize that too.
Each Miss New Jersey contestant has a platform, and Ortega’s is called PRAISE, short for Promoting Respect And Instilling Self-Esteem.
Ortega goes to schools and libraries to “conduct a series of workshops that really cover topics of interests to young girls. I like to talk about how to gain confidence, and the importance of academic achievement, community service and the value of inner beauty,” she explained.
Ortega started conducting her workshops in Paterson, where her mother served as community coordinator for the school district, and she hopes to spread them to other parts of the state.
“I really try to get girls to realize that their communications skills, leadership skills and intelligence is what gets you far,” she said. “Even though some people say physical beauty may get you a little bit farther, it is really what’s inside.”
Ortega said she has come a long way since her first pageant at 8 years old.
“When I started out, I was afraid to speak in front of an audience, and I was terribly shy. I think pageants have brought out the best in me,” she said.
Now she is using all she has learned to positively impact others.
"I have been really trying to embody what its like to be a role model," she said.