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Thursday, June 27, 2019

Miss Ohio, a Hyde Park Native, Goes for National Crown a 2nd Time

By Cynthia Smith

When Alice Magoto competed May 2 at the Miss USA Pageant in Reno-Tahoe, it was her second time representing Ohio in a nationally-televised event. In 2017, she was named Miss Ohio in the Miss America competition. 

This time around, Magoto went in with a new attitude. “In 2017, I was 18 and fresh out of high school,” she says. “I wasn’t confident, my body was still changing and I focused on material things like my clothes, hair and makeup.

“I went to be served in 2017. Now, I am going to serve. I worked backstage last year and saw the other side of pageants. I want to be grateful for everything they are doing for me this time. I am thinking of it like applying for a job. I am applying to be part of the Miss USA-Miss Universe organization. I want to stay humble and enjoy the experience; be conscious of everything going on. 

Miss Ohio, Alice Magoto, after being crowned in 2017
What it’s Like
Magoto describes the pageant experience: “You are with 50 other women who have been through this. It isn’t catty, like you would imagine. It is more of a sisterhood. You are competing against yourself. The judges are looking at you solely, seeing what kind of impression you make. Someone whose beauty is very unconventional could win. It’s all about presentation.

“Pageants have a reputation for being sexist, but they have changed so much. They aren’t a beauty competition anymore. They are a confidence competition.”

Her mission is ‘Keeping it Real.’ “I am fighting for fashion photography to be unedited with no photo-shopping,” Magoto explains. “My message is, ‘You don’t need to conform to a singular standard of beauty to be successful.’ My generation is pushing to break the glass ceiling, but we have to wade through a toxic swamp of beauty standards when we should be leaning into our goals and aspirations.” 

It may seem like a strange platform for a Miss USA contestant. But while Magoto works hard to put her best face forward, she never allows her image to be altered.

“Everyone has blemishes. I am all for enhancing yourself in the mirror, but not with tools on the computer or phone. Girls develop eating disorders to try to meet society’s definition of beauty. I work with groups fighting for research and legislation to change what can be done with people’s images. We have gotten results.” 

Unphotoshopped Alice Magoto. Her platform is Keeping it Real: encouraging the fashion industry to stop altering models’ images.
The Job of Miss Ohio
While serving as Miss Ohio (USA) this year has been less restrictive, being Miss Ohio (America) in 2018 was a full-time job. Magoto took a year off school, traveling around the state with a company car and credit card. She enjoyed the experience, which was “so much more than wearing a crown and a sash. It gives you platform to share your message.” 

Going into appearances, she would talk to audiences about social media and cyber bullying. “My goal was to help others feel like they are enough. When I was 14, I needed an empowered, non-conforming woman to look up to, so I try to be that.

“We get so hung up on appearance, we can’t function fully in other aspects of our life. There were times I didn’t hang out with friends or go to school because of my acne; I didn’t want to be bullied.”

From Shy and Insecure to Beauty Queen
Growing up acting in musical theatre, Magoto was familiar with rejection, and even had an assigned part taken away once. “After that, I was terrified good things were going to be taken away from me. I thought I didn’t deserve them. I had to figure out the source of all my negativity and what needed to change. I found out there is actually a phrase for was I was feeling, coined by Renee Engeln. I was ‘Beauty Sick,’ wasting time worried about how I looked.”

It is hard to believe today’s poised and stunning Magoto was once shy and insecure. She could portray someone else confidently on stage, but had no confidence in herself. “The pageants gave me a chance to build confidence in Alice. They opened me up to the world of politics, made me reflect and figure out what I was passionate about.”

Journey to the Crown
As a child, Magato watched pageants, but wasn’t interested in participating until junior year of high school, when she stopped acting but wanted to make use of the decade she had spent getting professional training in acting, singing and dancing. She joined the Dance Team at Seton and met a girl who had won Miss Ohio’s Outstanding Teen. 

“I decided to give it a try since it included a talent portion,” Magoto remembers. “I sang and danced, and came in 4th runner-up. I tried again the next year and won Miss Ohio, which included some very helpful college scholarship money.

Alice Magoto with the Bearcat mascot
Kenzie’s CLOSET Connection
Even before her pageant days, Magoto volunteered at Kenzie’s CLOSET in Obryonville, which provides gowns, shoes and jewelry to girls who can’t afford to dress up for prom. “Seton had worked with them before,” Magoto explains, “sending girls to volunteer. Senior year, we did a Capstone Project, and mine was about building confidence in young girls. 

“Many who come to Kenzie’s have never worn a dress, high heels or nice jewelry. We don’t let them look in the mirror until they are fully put together. There was a moment I will never forget: As a girl was getting ready to turn to the mirror, she whispered to herself, ‘I am beautiful…I am beautiful…’
“Kenzie’s CLOSET is a catalyst for confidence. I recently did a Dress Drive and video promotion for them, and volunteered as personal shopper.” 

Didn’t Appreciate Hyde Park Until She Left
Growing up on Observatory, Magoto didn’t love Hyde Park until she left it (she now lives in Over-the-Rhine). “I miss it now,” she laughs. “I have fond memories of hanging out on the Square, getting ice cream, eating at Echo, walking around. I grew up at the library. I went to Walnut Hills and then Seton, but my brother went to St. Mary’s, where we also attended church, and my dad taught at St. Ursula Villa. I have four cousins in Hyde Park who are like siblings to me.”

Magoto was “always a crazy child doing weird things. People called me ‘Alice in Wonderland.’ I never saw myself living a normal life. My mom is always changing jobs, experiencing and doing new things, and my dad is a ceramic artist and art teacher, so I guess I got some of my restless creativity from them.”

Her family has been extremely supportive of the pageant journey. “They have driven me all over the place, sacrificing so much. I cherish that they are giving me the chance to live my dreams and are willing to invest in me. We all feel that I will get something good out of the pageants, if only the confidence to pursue other dreams.”

Magoto wants to create a lifestyle clothing brand, with a website as the hub of the business. “Definitions of beauty are changing. This is the last push, and I want to be at the forefront.” 

Alice Magoto speaking at a girls’ school

How’d She Do?
Alice did not win Miss USA, but she made the Top 10 out of 51 contestants (all 50 states plus District of Columbia). Her name was the second one called when they announced the Top 10. 
Because she made it so far, her video was shown and her message was broadcast on national TV. “The amount of traction I have already gotten from that is exciting,” she said a week after the pageant. “People are interested, and I feel something bigger is coming my way.”

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