Castleton State College has been in the press a lot lately with its new football team and new Campus Center. But now it’s home to Miss Vermont USA. Nydelis Ortiz, a Castleton senior, recently claimed the crown of the Miss Vermont USA pageant and will be competing in the national competition against contestants from all the other states this spring.
Ortiz started pageants when she was about 14 after one of her high school teachers who directed pageants suggested that she enter. Ortiz entered and didn’t fare so well, but she said she found it was something that she enjoyed and wanted to pursue it more.
Ortiz is originally from Puerto Rico. She then moved to Burlington, then Vergennes and now she resides in Essex when she isn’t away at college. Interestingly, Ortiz said, the last Miss Vermont to win the Miss America pageant was Charlotte Lopez about 40 years ago and she too was from Puerto Rico. And the last time a Castleton State College student won the Miss Vermont title was in 1990, when Stephanie Bessey of Chester was crowned.
“There are a lot of stereotypes attached to pageants and pageant girls. It’s a really great way for young women to gain confidence, interview skills, and help them attain jobs in future. It’s also a good outlet for young women. They can focus on something good and positive instead of partying all the time and going out,” said Ortiz.
Winning Miss Vermont has been a dream of Ortiz for quite some time, but certainly wasn’t her only goal. She is a senior at old 20-years old and is double majoring in Spanish Language and Literature and Spanish for business with a business minor.
“I feel like I’ve accomplished a lot. I am the first person in family to go to college. That’s something to be proud of. I’m doing something very good and making my family proud. When I won it was kind of like a surreal moment. To be honest, after my name got called it all was just kind of a blur. I remember shaking really, really bad ,” she said through a wide, white smile.
Senior Nathan Long has been friends with Ortiz since 2006 and has seen her progress through the years with her pageants. He even attended the pageant this year.
“When I went to Miss Vermont USA this year I wasn’t really sure what to expect. It was surprising to me how intense it got. It was really suspenseful. That being said, we had already expected her to win because she has a significant amount of experience and knows a lot about what the judges look for in terms of presentation and substance. She also had a lot of support from the crowd. It was odd because there were random pockets of people with Nydelis signs that would scream her name whenever she went up. You don’t realize how many people really pay attention to these things until you are there. There was a lot of excitement surrounding her and the event- it was great,” said Long.
What’s next for Ortiz?
Months of training and appearances, first of which was Castleton’s football game against Norwich. Ortiz appeared at halftime along with Miss Vermont Teen, Shelby Gregoire.
“It was lots of fun, everyone was super supportive at the game,” said Ortiz.
Ortiz lives off campus with three roommates and her dog, Avalon.
“Nydelis is a kind, caring, and an obviously gorgeous girl, and living with her is so much fun. Her pageant did take up a lot of her time when she was in training for Miss Vermont. She had a lot to do to prepare for the pageant. I still saw her quite a bit though. Now that she won Miss Vermont, she gets to go to Las Vegas. I’m hoping to go with her,” said roommate Katie Momot.
Ortiz has been involved in the Community Service club on the Castleton campus as well as being the treasurer for the Spanish Club last year.
“I know that Nydelis has been working very hard at the pageant since I’ve known her. This has been one of her many dreams and she has trained and worked quite a bit to achieve her goal. A couple of times before, she finished as the runner up, but she never gave up and kept on trying. She has the full support of her parents and classmates, though all we can really do is cheer her up. She is a wonderful student and she works even harder in her academic disciplines because she wants to be a well educated Vermont grown Latina woman,” said Professor Ana Alexander, who oversees the Spanish Club.
Ortiz has now been assigned a personal trainer, stylist, and a walking coach to help her prepare for nationals in April. The pageant will be taking place in Las Vegas and Ortiz will be there for about three weeks preparing and training.
“I’ve talked to past winners and they say it is really busy. We wake up at like six in the morning, breakfast by six thirty and then lots of rehearsals,” said Ortiz.
Castleton is behind Ortiz every step of the way.
“I would be able to say how proud we are of her award, and how she will represent us well as alumni and Miss Vermont,” said Dean of Students Dennis Proulx.
“Nydelis is an interesting individual- a mixture of pageant girl, sports girl, gamer, musician, and student. She doesn’t really fit into any one cast, and that’s what makes her so great,” said Long.
Ortiz offers up words of wisdom to females choosing to follow in her footsteps.
“A lot of people tend to focus on other people. Focus on yourself. Be the best you can be, don’t compare yourself to other people, do what you can do to make yourself better,” said Ortiz.
For more information about the pageant, please see www.missvermontusa.net