Montclair State University was well represented in the 2018 Miss New Jersey USA pageant with senior Zena Aldabagh as a competitor. The pageant was held at the Parsippany Hilton Hotel from Oct. 13 to Oct. 15.
Aldabagh double majors in international business and business management with a minor in pre-law. At 18 years old, she started competing in pageants after receiving a letter from the National American Miss Pageant. This was her third time competing.
“This year’s pageant was the best one yet,” Aldabagh said. “There was a great completion [among the participants]. Also, it was my best performance of the three years I’ve done [the pageant].”
All 84 participants represented a New Jersey district, town or school. Aldabagh chose to represent Hudson County because she loves Hoboken, New Jersey.
“I work [in Hoboken and] spend a lot of time there. I hope to live there full time once I graduate in May,” Aldabagh said. “Hoboken is close to my heart.”
Participants also pick a social cause to bring awareness to. Aldabagh chose homelessness after witnessing many homeless people in Hoboken.
“A home is the foundation of everything,” Aldabagh said. “No one deserves to be on the street regardless of [their] situation.”
Aldabagh also mentioned that she donates money whenever she encounters a homeless person. She believes that every penny counts, and she is continuously looking for ways to help the homeless.
The pageant is a three-day competition. On the first day, the participants are interviewed. Then, they attend rehearsals for the final show on the last day of the pageant.
The second day of the competition, which is the most important day, is the preliminaries. The preliminaries determine the state finalists.
The preliminary consists of bathing suits and formal wear. These two portions and the interviews are each separately worth 30 percent of the participants’ final scores. Another 10 percent goes to each participant who brings jackets for a coat drive sponsored by the pageant.
A party with food and a DJ awaits the participants after finishing the preliminary.
“I liked the party at night because it was a great bonding experience for all the girls,” Aldabagh said.
On the last day, there are rehearsals for the final show again. Then, the state finalists are chosen.
Aldabagh was one of the state finalists.
“I felt relieved,” Aldabagh said. “I couldn’t believe I made it [that] far.”
Before the winner is finally determined, the finalists must redo the bathing suit and formal wear portions.
Although Aldabagh did not win the 2018 Miss New Jersey USA Pageant, she did win the award for Best Interview.
Aldabagh mentioned she wouldn’t participate in next year’s pageant in order to focus on her academic and career goals.
“I may be taking a year off,” Aldabagh said, “but [this] certainly won’t be my last pageant.”
The eligibility requirements for participation in the pageants allow competitors to compete until the age of 27, as long as they remain unmarried and an upstanding citizen. Aldabagh expressed that she will compete for several more years.
“I just love the experience of stepping out there and showing everybody who I am, and I wouldn’t trade [that] for anything else,” Aldabagh said.