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LAKEWOOD - Naiomy Vega-Miranda, a Lakewood resident representing Ohio, won the 2018 Miss North America pageant in Orlando, Florida in June. This was her third time competing in a pageant, and the first time she brought home the crown.

The bilingual, Puerto Rico-born 20-year-old said she doesn’t fit the typical pageant archetype. She’s not a double-zero waistline, or 6-feet tall with long blond hair, but says that’s not what pageants are in 2018.

“Just because the times are changing, so are pageants,” she said. “I like the healthy lifestyle, but I’m happy with how I look.”

Vega-Miranda took part in four days of events and rehearsals around the city. Contestants are judged on stage presence, one-on-one interviews, fashion choices and their pageant platform.

She will graduate this December from Cuyahoga Community College with a degree in business administration and human resources management, and plans to attend Baldwin Wallace University or Cleveland State for further education. Her interest in human resources grew after her time in beauty pageants.

Before competing in pageants, Vega-Miranda said she was pretty shy. Three pageants and a crowning later, she said that isn’t the case anymore.

“It’s not just about the show - about the glitz,” Vega-Miranda said. “It’s about growing as a person.”

Like a political candidate, pageant contestants run on a platform, or a message. Vega-Miranda’s platform is embrace diversity and to spread awareness on access to education, especially for people of color.

“Right now, believe it or not, hispanics have the lowest graduation rates,” Vega-Miranda said.

Her family moved to the United States for better educational opportunities. Vega-Miranda loves her island, but she said more now than ever the people of Puerto Rico need help.

“Yes, it’s hard,” she said. “That was the main reason my family moved here, so we could have a better education, and eventually better jobs.”

With the crown and sash in her possession, Miss North America has the next year booked with appearances. Vega-Miranda plans to support her sister queens who won in their respective categories at the pageant. And she also has some advice for those people interested in competing in a pageant.

“Just be yourself,” she said. “If you listen to every criticism someone has for you, you won’t be able to accomplish what you want to do.”

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