While her competitors have been donning makeup since elementary school, Gabrielle Torres said she was never the typical pageant girl.
“I actually started competing when I was 16, so I wasn’t a pageant girl all my life,” she said. “I wasn’t like Honey Boo Boo, ‘Pageant Moms,’ or anything like that … I wore the prom dress that I had for my sophomore year, and I won the title of Miss Las Vegas.”
That was two years ago.
Now Torres, 18, reigns as Miss Albuquerque 2013, and she will compete in the annual Miss New Mexico competition in Ruidoso on June 28.
After winning Miss Las Vegas in 2012, she competed for the first time last year for the title of Miss New Mexico, and placed at first runner-up. This year, Torres, who was born and raised in Albuquerque, said she is ready to make a second bid for the title.
“It was close last year,” she said. “I’m really hoping that I could put everything out there, put my best foot forward and really bring home the crown for Albuquerque and represent.”
A freshman studying journalism at UNM, Torres said she first heard of the competition from a friend two years ago. She said she decided to compete in the pageant because she supported the cause of the Miss America Organization, the body that hosts the annual pageants.
“The Miss America Organization is the number one provider of scholarships for women in the entire United States,” she said.
“I’m so fortunate to have my entire first year of college paid for. And I get to meet great people during my reign as Miss Albuquerque.”
Torres said that as Miss Albuquerque, she chose to organize a campaign against obesity in the city. Torres, who said she lost 55 pounds throughout middle school, said obesity is a common problem in the state.
“When I was younger, I struggled with my weight,” she said. “It’s something that I experience every single day. I have to watch what I eat; I have to exercise on a daily basis. I’ve been able to go around Albuquerque and to speak at many schools and share my experiences with my platform of fighting obesity.”
Torres said that she doesn’t plan to leave the state in the future, unlike many of her peers, because she considers herself a “hometown girl.” She said she aims to have a career in broadcast journalism after college.
“It’s a really common field for a lot of pageant girls to get involved in because you’re always speaking publicly,” she said. “It’s your responsibility to know what you’re talking about and be able to communicate with other people.”
For last year’s Miss New Mexico pageant, Torres played the piano in the talent portion of the competition, she said. Torres, who started her training in classical piano 10 years ago, said she’s keeping her performance “under wraps” this year “because it is kind of exciting.”
She said the pageant’s pressure won’t overwhelm her this year, either.
“Honestly, I don’t get nervous anymore,” she said. “I’ve been performing all my life. I play the piano, the guitar; I sing. I was raised on the stage, so, if anything, it’s exciting.”
Torres said she encourages Albuquerque residents to attend this year’s Miss New Mexico pageant in the summer to show their support. She said she also urges young girls in the city to live an active life.
“Get involved — not necessarily with the Miss New Mexico organization, but with anything,” she said. “When I was younger I was involved in so much, and that’s what really shaped me into the person that I am today.”