Sunday, May 19, 2024
Samantha Hawkins is crowned Miss Cambridge

Samantha Hawkins, a second-year doctoral student at Harvard University, is crowned Miss Cambridge in February. (Photo: Scotty Schenck of The Huntington News)

It’s a little surprising Cambridge is represented once in the 2015 Miss Massachusetts Pageant, let alone three times.

But the city has an official Miss Cambridge in the competition coming this weekend in Samantha Hawkins, a second-year doctoral student at Harvard University. A second Harvard student is in the running – Alissa Musto, a senior who is also Miss Tri County. And a Cambridge resident and Massachusetts Institute of Technology graduate, Kira Kopacz, is running as Miss Lakeville.

The ick factor of beauty pageants isn’t helped by the fact that there’s money involved in some voting. As pageant officials put it:

Again this year at the state pageant, supporters may help select the 11th finalist … with online voting. For a minimum vote of only $1, fans may visit the Miss Massachusetts website and cast their vote for the contestant of their choice who they would like to see as the 11th finalist. Each dollar that is donated counts as one vote. Online voting is now taking place and will end at midnight on Friday.

But then there’s the full name of the event, which is the Miss Massachusetts Scholarship Pageant, and the assertion that, as a preliminary in the wider Miss America Program, it calls the system “the world’s largest provider of scholarship assistance for young women” and says it has disbursed more than $45 million in scholarships last year at the local, state and national levels.

“The Miss Massachusetts Program strongly emphasizes scholarship and educational achievement, and provides personal and professional opportunities for young women and promotes their voice in culture, politics and the community,” said Donna Klamkin, representing the Miss Massachusetts Scholarship Foundation in a press release.

Here are our participating Harvard and MIT students, based on information from the pageant:

062215i-Samantha-HawkinsMiss Cambridge, Samantha Hawkins: Hawkins, 22, lives in Malden and is a 2014 graduate of The University of Maryland at Baltimore County, where she got degrees in cultural anthropology and visual research methodology. She is a second-year doctoral student at Harvard University seeking a degree in sociocultural anthropology. Her pageant talent is playing piano, and her platform is about alleviating the effects of poverty through volunteerism.

062215i-Kira-KopaczMiss Lakeville, Kira Kopacz: Kopacz, 22, is a recent graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where she got a degree in brain and cognitive sciences. She lives in Cambridge. Her pageant talent is Broadway vocals, and she plans to sing “I Am What I Am” from “La Cages Aux Folles.” She is using the pageant to promote Casa for Children: Home, Safe Home.

062215i-Alissa-MustoMiss Tri County, Alissa Musto: Musto, 20, lives in Rehoboth and is a musician and senior at Harvard University pursuing a degree in government. Her pageant talent is playing piano, which she has been playing professionally since 15 (including appearing on the NBC television show, “America’s Most Talented Kid”) and her platform is Project MIOS: Creating Opportunities through Music in Our Schools – a program she founded in January.

As a winner, one of the women would get nearly $5,000 to use on education expenses in addition to the chance to represent Massachusetts at the 95th Annual Miss America Pageant in September.

Hawkins gives a sense of how the worlds mingle in her Twitter feed, which is a mix of social justice alerts, anthropology links with commentary, the occasional personal matter and insights and call-outs to her sideline in the beauty business. “After three years of practice, I can finally put false eyelashes on securely. Only trouble now is I can’t get them off,” she said in a tweet with the hashtag pageantgirlproblems. Then there’s things like this:

As a titleholder in the Miss America Organization while in Baltimore, Hawkins enthused about her role as a goodwill ambassador for the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals and her time traveling the state to perform, speak at community events and raise money for local charities.

Kopacz has other good things to say about her pageant experiences.

“I got into the pageant world in middle school as a chance for me to perform on stage and build confidence during my young years,” Kopacz told the Chatham Courier in a profile by Sally Capone. “I also love the opportunity to win scholarship money for my education, practice my singing and make friendships that I never would have found otherwise. The Miss America Organization had assisted me in becoming the happy and confident young woman I am today and prepares me for my next steps in life, including graduating from MIT and heading to medical school.”

But, yes, there’s still a swimsuit competition. “Attention is focused on beauty of face, figure, physical fitness and the confidence with which each contestant carries herself,” the pageant rules say. “Numerical measurements are not considered in the judging.”

The 76th annual Miss Massachusetts Scholarship Pageant is at 7 p.m. Friday and 3 p.m. Sunday at the Hanover Theatre for the Performing Arts in Worcester. Information is here.