Miss Rhode Island Crowned

Shruti Nagarajan, who said she used to watch pageants on television as a young girl while growing up in Guam, did pretty well in her first pageant ever, as she became Miss Rhode Island on May 22 at the Casino Theatre in Newport.

Nagarajan, 24, is a graduate of Brown University, and has since lived in downtown Providence while working in Boston in the financial services field. She said she grew up in the island territory, and moved to Rhode Island for school, but really felt at home. Representing Rhode Island, she said, is especially meaningful for her.

“It really, truly means leaps and bounds to represent the state that has given me so much,” she said.

Nagarajan said her work/life routine had caused her to gain a lot of weight, so she decided to enter the pageant as a way to challenge herself with the goal of getting in shape in time. It worked, as she lost nearly 50 pounds in the process.

“I looked at myself in the mirror, and said I’m going to go for it,” she said. “I still can’t believe I’m standing here.”

While feeling a little like the odd woman out, as the oldest competitor and the only one not still in school, Nagarajan said the other contestants made her feel comfortable.

“These girls were absolutely wonderful,” she said. “They’re so supportive. It’s such an amazing group.”

Nagarajan said that when she takes the stage in Atlantic City this fall at the Miss America Competition, she will likely be thinking of her family back home in Guam. With travel from there so expensive, she said, it’s unlikely they will be able to watch her in person.

“I will continue to have my family in mind,” she said. “It’s about $2,000 to come here, and I don’t want them to spend the money for that.”

Having grown up in a low-income situation led Nagarajan’s to her platform – Upward Mobility: Collect Access for Low Income and Minority Students – is near to her heart.

“I want to reach out to low-income and minority students, tell them that they can accomplish something, and help them matriculate into college,” she said.

She added that she hopes to use any scholarships money she earns to pursue her Masters in Business Administration.

Being of 100-percent Indian descent, Nagaranjan said she admires former Miss America Nina Davuluri, and hopes to keep representing a strong presence for minorities including Indians at the national level.

“I’m the first Miss Rhode Island of Indian heritage, and I could not be prouder to say that,” she said. “It’s still sinking in that that’s the case.”

Kate DePetro, a sixteen-year-old who attends East Greenwich High School, was crowned Miss Rhode Island’s Outstanding Teen at the same pageant. DePetro said she was in good company on the stage and was surprised when she was named the winner.

“Honestly, I was shocked. I didn’t expect it at all. All of the contestants – we’re like sisters – were amazing. It could have gone any way,” she said.

DePetro’s platform – Make A Difference, Make It Positive, Make It Today – encourages other teens to make a difference for the better in their communities, and stems from an experience she had being bullied, and how she turned it into a positive.

DePetro explained that she was on the Ellen Degeners show in early 2015, where the talk show host sent her on tour with the band, Imagine Dragons. While that experience was life-changing, when she came home, her friends and classmates all shunned and cyberbullied her.

“It was really hard for me, but instead of letting that define me, I kept it positive,” she said, explaining that she began mentoring a young boy with spinal muscular atrophy. She introduced the young sports fan to athletes at her school, which lead to fundraisers to get a vehicle to help the young man get around.

“They loved him,” she said. “The football team got involved, then the school got involved, then the town got involved. Before you know it, we were the hometown hero for Rhode Island for December, and we raised over $30,000 for him.”

DePetro is also excited to go to Orlando to compete for the title of Miss America’s Outstanding Teen this summer, and meet the other contestants.

“I’m so excited to meet all of my sisters,” she said.

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