51 contestants, 51 stories, 1 crown. It’s that time of the year again: Miss USA 2017.
Although pageants are known for the swimsuits, gowns and long-awaited final questions, the Miss USA pageant is proving that it’s more than just glitz. It was last year that the national competition broke barriers by crowning Deshauana Barber, an African-American U.S. Army Reserves captain from Washington D.C.
“There’s a lot of stigma about pageants and for a long time it was about beauty” said executive producer of Miss USA, Julianne Hough. “But I think for our generation there’s so much more about a woman than just her outside appearance.”
As the contestants gear up for the show to be aired live Sunday evening on FOX, two Latina contestants—Linette De Los Santos (Miss Florida USA 2017) and Nancy Gonzalez (Miss Texas USA 2017)— are not only representing diversity, but are also standing up for with they believe in with the utmost confidence.
De Los Santos moved to the United States from the Dominican Republic when she was 5 with her three siblings and parents. Now, at the age of 25, she is a second-year-law student at Nova Southeastern University and an American citizen. She is studying to become an immigration lawyer and help families that went though the same journey as hers.
“I went through the whole immigration process with my family but I didn’t know how big of an impact it really was because I was the one going through it until I started working at an immigration criminal defense law firm. That was where I really realized how big immigration really is and how many people are impacted by it,” she shared.
While working as a secretary at the law firm, De Los Santos was able to help immigrants to become citizens or help those facing deportation. At that time, she made the decision to practice immigration law. “For me to be able to help them go through that and connect it back to my culture and my process of how my family came really impacted me,” the titleholder says.
And the Dominican- American is proud to represent both countries on the Miss USA stage. “I know that I can represent the United States to the best of my abilities as a Dominican and as an American.”
Nancy Gonzalez, who is representing the state of Texas, comes from a Mexican background. Both of her parents are from Chihuahua, Mexico, and although she hasn’t been to the country in a while she maintains connected to it through her mother’s culinary skills and the deep-rooted family values.
It was this profound connection to her family that helped Gonzalez leave an abusive relationship when she was 18. While in college, Gonzalez experienced severe depression due to a toxic relationship that took a quick sour turn and left her suffering. When she thought she couldn’t take it anymore, it was the memories and love for her family that gave her the power to leave the relationship: “I found every little power in me that I found. I would think about my mom and all the effort she put in coming to the United States and making a better life for me.”
Now, the Texas-native aims to advocate for women going through the same type of abuse. “I want to demonstrate that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. I went from being someone that kept to myself because I was depressed to competing for Miss Texas and now I’m walking the Miss USA stage,” said Gonzalez. “No matter how bad you have it, find that light. Find your strength whether it’s from your parents who fought hard to give you a better life or it’s because you think back at all your dreams. Whatever it is, find that and push hard and fulfill your dreams.”
Be sure to catch these two Latinas as they compete for the 2017 Miss USA crown live on FOX Sunday, May 14th at 8pm ET from Mandalay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas.