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Miss New York USA Pageant Welcomes Gorgeous Gotham Gals

By Serena Solomon | January 12, 2012 6:38am
Miss New York USA Contestants
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Billy Figueroa

MANHATTAN —  The stage better be ready for these Big Apple beauties. 

With one wanting to have dinner with Hitler and controversial Brooklyn politican Charles Barron,  and another dreaming of a vacation in space, the crop of glamorous gals vying for The Miss New York USA crown next week is certainly diverse.

And they're hoping to wow judges with both their bodies and their brains.

DNAinfo profiled 13 contestants, from Miss NoLita to Miss Harlem, who will compete with 150 others from across the state at the Jan. 14-15 contest in Westchester. Judges in the competition evaluate participants on internal and external beauty, ensuring the winner a place on the stage at Donald Trump’s Miss USA competition.

“I am excited to see just how these girls progress through the transformation,” said Keith Lewis, co-executive producer of Miss New York USA. “Regardless of whether they win the crown or not.”

While Lewis would not confirm if Trump will be able to attend this weekend's competition, spectators should still expect an elaborate event.

“We see [the contest] more as a red-carpet event, more fashion-forward — a la Victoria’s Secret,” Lewis said.

As preparation for the competition, the contestants offered some intriguing answers when asked pageant-themed questions, including “who would you want to have dinner with and why?”

“If it was a dead person, I would have to say Hitler,” said Merlix Ventura, a 21-year-old political science and Jewish studies student at City College, who hails from Washington Heights. “Because I am intrigued by the Holocaust and I would love to know his reasoning for the genocide.”

If she had the chance to eat with a living person, her choice would be controversial Brooklyn politician Charles Barron, she said.

When asked what her ideal vacation destination would be, Brooklyn's 26-year-old Marquita Johnson had high hopes.

“In space, I would be able see the most beautiful sight imaginable — the world,” she told DNAinfo. “The vacation would not last long, but it would be a vacation of a lifetime!”

In their contest applications, contestants had to come up with a New York-specific name for themselves, resulting in such participants as Miss Concrete Jungle and Miss Times Square.

“They typically must have a compelling connection to the area that they represent," Lewis explained. "They lived there, it is where they worked, their grandparents lived there."

One contestant, 24-year-old Katie Nordhoff, chose Miss Hudson River because she lives in Hell's Kitchen and loves to run along the river with her dog.

While some may see beauty pageants as old-fashioned, contestants such as Nordhoff — who paid an $1,800 entry fee — saw a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity in the pageant.

“Even just saying I am a pageant contestant, people have gravitated towards me,” she said.

Some competitors, such as Ventura and Nordhoff, founded nonprofits and hope a pageant win will help further their causes.

For instance, Nordhoff's organization “My Father’s Work” supports abused children navigating the court system in cases where they are victims.

“I want to stand on a mountain and shout,” said Nordhoff, who visited court on numerous occasions with her attorney father and met the children for herself.

“Miss New York would give me a real opportunity to fight for those kids."