NEWARK -- Through all the questions, official pictures, proclamations and selfies with an endless parade of girls and their mothers, the smile never left the face of Madison Anderson Berrios.
As the admiring girls from Roberto Clemente School and the various child beauty queens pressed in on her, Ms. Berrios showed the poise that made her Miss Puerto Rico of 2019 and a runner-up in the Miss Universe pageant two months ago.
Deputy Mayor of Community Engagement Jacqueline Quiles introduced Ms. Berrios as a “surprise guest” to the delight of the girls who filled every seat in the Newark City Hall pressroom on Monday.
In half the room were the children from Roberto Clemente School in their pale yellow uniform tops. In the other, were junior beauty queens, from ages 16 to 6, representing Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador and other Latin countries and organizations.
But in Ms. Berrios’ eyes, all the girls were queens.
She spoke to them of “staying focused and moving forward” in their lives.
“If we work hard and be true to ourselves, we can lead by example,” she said. “We can inspire others. My job as a queen is to work hard to improve my community.”
In stressing that Hispanic girls “believe in ourselves” she used the term “divine assessment” as a way for the girls to find their passion and voices.
“If you amplify your voice, you can do anything,” she said.
Ms. Berrios speaks from experience. One of her great challenges was to learn Spanish when she embarked on her beauty queen career in Puerto Rico.
Born in Arizona to a former Puerto Rican beauty queen and raised in Orlando, Fla., Ms. Berrios said Puerto was nonetheless in “my blood and in my heart.”
During the 30-minute question and answer sessions, she easily fielded questions and answered in both English and Spanish.
She is a strong advocate of safe spaces for victims of domestic violence in Puerto Rico, St. Kitts and Puerto Rico. Her social project “Metamorphosis” gives domestic violence survivors a safe haven and time for self-discovery and empowerment to lead full and independent lives.
“When I was young, we never had anyone to look up,” said Deputy Mayor Quiles. “I was Miss Puerto Rico of the Puerto Day Parade in 1992 and it launched my career. We brought Madison as a role model for our girls, to inspire them and give them confidence in themselves.”
— Newark News