You may not have known this, but nearby to the Village of Bronxville is for the majority of the year where the newly appointed Miss Westchester calls home. What even fewer people know is that Miss Westchester’s local roots go even further back in time than her arrival as a freshman on the campus four years ago, but date back to over 18 years when she was a regular at the Sarah Lawrence Early Childhood Center.
So who is this Miss Westchester? That’s exactly what we sought to find out when we sat down with Yonkers native Sarah Hreyo, 21, who earlier in the month at the Second Annual Miss Westchester and inaugural Miss Hudson Valley pagents held in White Plains. Hreyo is currently a senior at Sarah Lawrence, where she studies biology, psychology and sociology. Hreyo beat out competitors from all across the County to earn her prestigious pageant title – which you may be surprised to learn is her first – competing in a swimsuit, evening gown and personal interview competition.
Patch: How long have you been involved in pageants? When did you hear about the Miss Westchester Pageant, and do you have any other pageant titles to your name?
Sarah Hreyo: I've only been involved with pageants since March of this year. After my experience, I knew pageantry was something that I wanted to remain involved with. I searched the web for different opportunities to get involved with, and the only pageant that really caught my attention was the Miss Westchester Pageant. I could tell right away that this pageant was different – there were workshops leading up to pageant day and fun activities to be a part of. The executive directors of the pageant, Dee van Eyck and Laura Giannone, really care about all of the young women participating. The current titleholders at the time, Christina DeLeon (Miss Westchester 2011) and Samantha Gold (Miss Westchester Teen 2011) were not only beautiful on the outside, but caring, talented, and smart as well. I sent in my interest application in April, and the excitement began.
This is my first and only pageant title. I'm incredibly grateful to be the titleholder for such a wonderful county and fantastic pageant organization.
Patch: What are the few days and weeks leading up to a pageant like? Do you practice or have any special routines?
Hreyo: It gets pretty crazy! It takes a lot longer than you might think to find the perfect evening gown, a flattering swimsuit, and comfortable heels! I also worked with a pageant coach, Miss New York 2005 Kandice Pelletier, to learn how to really own the stage – walking with confidence, connecting with a crowd, and more. My sister and I also practiced answering onstage interview questions for weeks. We would literally get on YouTube and search for past pageant questions to answer. It really helps prepare you to think on your feet.
Backstage at the actual pageant, I do have a few relaxation routines that I go through to loosen up any tension I may have in my body or mind. I probably look pretty silly when I do them, but they work! Then I just sit back, dance around with my fellow pageant girls, and get ready to have fun on stage
Patch: What does it take to win a pageant like Miss Westchester? What is the atmosphere like at these types of events?
Hreyo: It is about way more than just looking good – they are looking for girls who are genuine, confident, smart, caring, and well spoken. Luckily, this means that the girls you run into backstage are some of the nicest people you will ever meet. The atmosphere backstage was incredible. Girls were sharing makeup tricks and tips, practicing our on stage dance together, and, of course, having tons of girl talk. Before we went on stage, we all gathered in a huddle and did a cheer, like a football team would do before taking the field. It was a great moment, because I looked around our circle and realized that I would be so happy to see any of the girls around me be crowned.
Patch: What is your favorite, and least favorite, event in a pageant and why?
Hreyo: My favorite event is the interview. I love meeting new people and speaking with them. I also love sharing my platform issue, which is empowering women (and men!) against domestic violence. The pageant interview allows me not only to introduce myself to the judges, but also this topic that I am so passionate about.
I honestly do not have a least favorite event. There are parts of each, from swimsuit to evening gown that I love and enjoy.
Patch: What is the hardest question you have been asked as part of the interview segment of a pageant?
Hreyo: Remembering the answer to this question is almost harder than the most difficult interview question I've had! I think one of the most difficult questions to be asked is "Tell me about yourself". It is so open-ended, and there is so much you can say to answer it.
Patch: What is the biggest miss-conception out there about pageant participants?
Hreyo: That we are shallow and stupid. I know those are harsh words, but that really is what a lot of people think. And it couldn't be further from the truth – girls who compete in pageants are actively giving back to their communities, pursuing advanced degrees, and serving as positive role models to their peers. Pageantry really is an opportunity to grow and gain confidence – I haven't met a girl who has taken part in the Miss Westchester and Miss Hudson Valley pageant who does not view it as a positive experience.
Patch: Are you involved with any groups or athletic teams at Sarah Lawrence?
Hreyo: Last year, I played on the Sarah Lawrence Gryphons volleyball team. We had a great season and finished at the top of our conference, the Hudson Valley Women's Athletic Conference. I also represented the team on the Sarah Lawrence Student Athlete Advisory Committee. My class and work schedule made it difficult for me to get involved with the team this year, but I'm active on campus as a Peer Mentor for first-year students.
Patch: How are you enjoying attending college near Bronxville?
Hreyo: I love going to school in Bronxville! Bronxville has always been a favorite place of mine to spend time with my family and friends. My mom took my sister and I into Bronxville often as children to shop at the toy store and get goodies at the bakery. Now, there are so many great restaurants to visit and stores to shop in. I'll often leave my car parked at Sarah Lawrence and make the walk into the village for a coffee.
Patch: Do people on campus know you compete in pageants?
Hreyo: No, not really. A few of my friends on campus are aware, but it isn't something that I talk about with just everyone! However, I'm sure the word is going to get out soon that I've been crowned Miss Westchester. I'd love for more people to find out – I really support pageantry and the values it instills in young women. The more people who know about that, the better.
Patch: Do you know what you want to do in terms of a career down the line, and how long do you plan on competing in pageants?
Hreyo: When I graduate this year, I'm planning on pursuing an advanced degree in the health sciences. My ultimate ambition is to be a neonatologist. I'd also love to do some freelance beauty editor work in my spare time. My interests are quite diverse! I definitely see pageantry remaining an important part of my life. You'll probably see me on the pageant scene for many years to come. However, I don't think any title will ever mean as much to me as being crowned Miss Westchester already does.
Visit the Miss Westchester/Miss Hudson Valley website to learn more about all of the 2012 titleholders and upcoming events. You can also connect with the Miss Westchester/Hudson Valley pageants on acebookollow Sarah during her year of service on her blog.