Sophomore crowned Miss Latina U.S.

By Jaime Winston, Staff Writer

Diana Franca, a U student, was crowned Miss Latina United States on Sept. 28 in San Antonio, Texas while competing against 18 other contestants from around the country.

Diana Franca said she trained physically, emotionally and spiritually for the Miss Latina United States pageant but will have to work even harder for the international pageant this summer.

After spending her freshman year at New York University, Franca is a sophomore at the U majoring in economics and international relations. She was voted all-state in volleyball when she attended Cottonwood High School and speaks both Portuguese and Spanish.

“The judges found her to be very eloquent,” said Acirema Alayeto, president and founder of the Miss Latina United States pageant. “Now she’s going to be competing against countries that treat pageantry as an Olympic sport.”

The exact date and location of the Miss America Latina pageant, the upcoming international competition, will be announced in November and is set for somewhere in the Caribbean.

Contestants will include Latina women from all over the world, including South America, Central America and Europe.

“(Franca) has to prepare herself in current events and coming up against a press that is sometimes nice and sometimes hostile,” Alayeto said. “It will be a lot tougher.”

The local contest had a seven-minute interview with judges and evening gown, swimsuit and traditional dress competitions. Contestants were judged on their beauty, personality and intellect.

The pageant was a three-day event, but the international competition will include 20 grueling days of interviews, a traditional Latina dress competition, swimsuit and evening gown competitions, and participation in press conferences and meetings with government leaders of the host country.

As Miss Latina United States, Franca won a $1,000 scholarship and has opportunities to travel and appear on TV networks around the world. Franca is currently a volunteer for Big Brothers Big Sisters of America Inc., and is also looking for volunteer opportunities that deal with child hunger.

Franca, who competed two years ago and won the Miss Telemundo pageant, said the Miss Latina United States pageant was a challenge for her because she did not have a director to guide her and had to find sponsors to be able to afford the trip to Texas.

“People have this misconception that pageants have all these fake girls who have no challenges whatsoever,” she said.

Franca said the competition kept her busy and she didn’t see her family members much during that time, but she could not have won without their support.

After being crowned, she looked at the audience and saw her mother crying tears of joy.

“I just couldn’t believe it,” said Ana Fillingim, Franca’s mother. “It’s incredible because you don’t think of your little girl being Miss Latina U.S.”

Franca’s older sister, Luiza, said she has already started helping Franca pick out clothes for the international pageant.

“I think her chances are really good,” she said. “My sister has worked so hard in all aspects of her life, and I’m sure she’ll put just as much effort towards this if not more.”

Tony Terracas, Franca’s boyfriend, has been going to the gym with her and supports her through the frustrations she encounters to prepare for the international competition.

He said if she does not win Miss America Latina, it won’t spoil her positive attitude.

“I really hope she wins it,” Terracas said. “But in my heart I know she’s already a winner.”

[email protected]

Anna Kartashova

Diana Franca, a sophomore in economics and international studies, was crowned Miss Latina U.S. at the end of September.