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Nuestra Belleza Latina 2018 crowns their winner, Lisbeth Castillo

OLAS%27s+Nuestra+Belleza+Latina+2018+crowns+Miss.+Guatamala%2C+Lisbeth+Castillo%2C+as+their+victor.%0APhotograph+taken+by%3A+Ismael+Cordova
OLAS's Nuestra Belleza Latina 2018 crowns Miss. Guatamala, Lisbeth Castillo, as their victor.
Photograph taken by: Ismael Cordova

OLAS's Nuestra Belleza Latina 2018 crowns Miss. Guatamala, Lisbeth Castillo, as their victor. Photograph taken by: Ismael Cordova

OLAS's Nuestra Belleza Latina 2018 crowns Miss. Guatamala, Lisbeth Castillo, as their victor. Photograph taken by: Ismael Cordova

Ismael Cordova, Staff Writer

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On Friday, Jan. 26, 250 spectators assembled together in the Elgin Community College Spartan Auditorium to view the 2018 Nuestra Belleza Latina Pageant. The pageant was organized and hosted by ECC‘s Organization of Latin American Students.

OLAS created the pageant to promote education, awareness, and celebration of Latin American nations and their individual community values. In the pageant, eight young women competed in hopes of obtaining a sash, crown, and a $500 grand prize scholarship. The eight contestants were assigned Latin American countries months in preparation for the pageant.

The contestants included: ECC’s Yesenia Gonzalez representing Argentina, Ana Rojas representing Colombia, April Nieto representing Costa Rica, Steffanie Sanchez representing Ecuador, Lisbeth Castillo representing Guatemala, Kayla Rangel-Tackett representing Mexico, Claudia Martinez representing Venezuela and South Elgin High School’s Jaelly Pena representing Puerto Rico.

The contestants prepared for two months prior to the pageant.

“The [practices] were like a reality check of what [I got myself] into. I was terrified of speaking in front of everyone. I had gotten a tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy a few weeks before… but after practicing all night long for many nights, I felt confident and more comfortable,” Gonzalez said.

As the pageant began, the audience filled the seats, causing an uproar for the contestants that they came to support. As the lights shifted to indicate the beginning of the show, OLAS President, Priscilla Gonzalez, and Marketing Officer, Alannis Muñoz, began the opening by welcoming the attendees and judges.

Miss Columbia Ana Rojas wears traditional Colombia clothing for Phase Two of the Nuestra Belleza Latina 2018 pageant.

President Gonzalez then explained the three-phase method in which the pageant would operate.

Phase One consisted of each contestant wearing identical pink shirts with the pageant’s logo, introducing themselves with specifications on what they were studying, background information about themselves, and the country that they were representing.

Following this phase, the stage was filled with performers from the local dance group, and pageant sponsor, Ballet Folklorico Huehuecoyot. BFH filled the stage with traditional Mexican folkloric dancing that caused the audience get up on their feet and sing along to the classic Mexican music that they performed to.

“When I saw the performance, I was truly amazed. The way they were synchronized and how they had bright smiles while performing had me at the edge of my seat with excitement,” said a first-year student, Yannet Tello.

Following the performance, Phase Two commenced.

Phase Two consisted of all eight contestants independently showcasing their knowledge of their assigned country, bringing a well known cultural item, and concluding the phase with their evening gown presentation.

As all eight contestants reunited on stage in their evening gown presentation, Priscilla Gonzalez and Muñoz joined the contestants on stage to continue to the next step of the competition.

All the contestants stood nervously waiting to hear the selection of the five finalists. Before the five finalists were announced superlatives were given to the contestants who showcased the best in each respective category of: “Most Photogenic”, “Best Social Media”, and “Friendliest”.

“Most Photogenic” was given to contestant Claudia Martinez, “Best Social Media” was given to contestant Yesenia Gonzalez and “Friendliest” was given to contestant Ana Rojas.

Following the superlative award winners, Priscilla Gonzalez announced the five finalists that the judges chose to continue to the third and final round.

As tensions rose high, the five contestants were announced, revealing that Gonzalez, Nieto, Sanchez, Castillo, and Martinez, all advanced to the next round. Leaving Rojas, Rangel-Tackett, and Pena, as 6th, 7th, and 8th place finalists.

“When I was announced as one of the five finalists, I was surprised and extremely happy. I felt a huge relief because I didn’t have to keep waiting to see If I had made it. Every second feels like an eternity when you’re standing up there,” Castillo said.

Miss Argentina, Yesenia Gonzalez, answers her question for the third and final phase of the Nuestra Belleza Latina 2018 pageant. Photo taken by: Ismael Cordova

As the bottom three contestants exited the stage, the remaining five chose from a glass container their question for the question and answer round. The questions ranged from DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival Act, to speaking Spanish in public schools, to current President of the United States, Donald Trump. At the conclusion of the pageant, all five finalists gathered together on stage one last time to hear the final results.

Miss Costa Rica, April Nieto, and Miss Argentina, Yesenia Gonzalez, obtained the title of second and first runner-ups for the Nuestra Belleza Latina crown.

“I was so excited… I was so happy to have gotten that far and to have overcome my fear of speaking in front of a large audience. I gave my best at it and I’m happy with the result,” Gonzalez said.

After Gonzalez’s and Nieto’s crowning, the remainder of the finalists, Sanchez, Castillo, and Martinez, stood by to hear the winning declaration of Nuestra Belleza Latina 2018.

As the audience, contestants, and judges stood calmly anticipating, Priscilla Gonzalez announced Lisbeth Castillo as the night’s victor.

“[At first] I was shocked… every girl did an amazing job and I knew we all deserved to win. After a couple of minutes, I thought “You did it!” All the hard work, practices, and stressful moments were finally paying off. It was all worth it,” Castillo said.

Spectators simultaneously agreed that the pageant set the bar high for student lead organizations events and many posted on social media that pageants, like the Nuestra Belleza Latina, are important for cultural representation.

“I strongly believe that OLAS should continue providing this opportunity for young Latinas because it is a great experience. You learn about other countries and you get to know more people and make friends. You are able to grow, not only as a public speaker and performer but grow as a person. As Latinos, we need to support, learn and celebrate each other and Nuestra Belleza Latina ECC gives us the chance to do it,” Castillo said.

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Nuestra Belleza Latina 2018 crowns their winner, Lisbeth Castillo