For some, the word “pageant” may evoke the image of a beauty contest with participants consumed by a woman-versus-woman mentality.
While the Miss Wantagh pageant got its start 65 years ago, pageant director Ella Stevens said the program is far from an old-school beauty competition. The Miss Wantagh pageant for Wantagh High Schoolers encourages young women to get involved in their community and work together, Stevens said.
“Miss Wantagh is a team leader, but all members of the Miss Wantagh Court are responsible for doing things in the community when Miss Wantagh is called upon,” Stevens, the program director of 15 years, said.
With parasols in hand, Miss Wantagh 2021 and the other five members of this year’s Court rode in the backseat of convertibles with the top down and paraded down the street on July 3 at Wantagh’s annual Independence Day parade, Stevens said.
Angelina Masciak, 16, was formally named Miss Wantagh 2021 inside of Wantagh Elementary School following the parade.
One of the main goals of this year’s winner is to promote the community-focused pageant. Maciak said she hopes to encourage middle and high school students to get involved locally by joining the Miss Wantagh Court.
“Miss Wantagh should be something that more people know about,” Maciak said. “It’s great for college, and it makes you feel so good that you can give back to Wantagh.”
For Maciak, claiming the title was a huge accomplishment: she’s wanted the label since she was a child, she said. “I’d go to the parades with my mom. Whenever I’d see Miss Wantagh in the parade in the convertible, I just wanted to be her,” Maciak said.
Maciak was born and raised in Manhattan. When she reached elementary school, she moved to Wantagh with her family and has been there ever since.
The senior-to-be was involved in the student council at Wantagh Elementary School. In middle school, she joined the Class of 2022. She became involved in the Miss Wantagh Court in seventh grade when she joined the Junior Club, a mentorship program where young students shadow members of the Miss Wantagh Court to prepare them for the future if they decide to run for the pageant.
“I was always involved in student council and I always liked helping people since I was little. I just liked volunteering and thought it was a great way to get involved in the community,” Maciak said.
As an eighth grader, Maciak joined the Senior Club, another Miss Wantagh mentorship program for incoming high school freshmen. She first participated in the pageant during her freshman year.
Maciak currently serves as the president of student government at Wantagh High School and is a trustee in the school’s Key Club. She’s also a member of several honor societies, including: National Honor Society, National English Honor Society, Tri-M Music Honor Society and Foreign Language Honor Society.
After senior year, Maciak said she plans to return to Manhattan and attend Hunter College. She’s interested in studying political science or accounting and finance. Down the line, she hopes to transfer to Columbia or Yale University for her Master’s Degree.
This past year, Maciak partnered with Wantagh’s elementary, middle and high schools, as well as some Bellmore-Merrick schools, to write, collect and distribute letters to senior citizens. Maciak collected over 3,000 cards which were sent out to local senior centers on five separate holidays. Her grandparents in Manhattan partially inspired the card program, she said.
In addition to continuing the card program, Maciak said she hopes to initiate a pen-pal program between middle and high schoolers and local seniors. If the program moves forward, she would create pairs based on similar interests and compatibility, she said.
“I just think it’s nice for younger people and older people to learn from one another,” Maciak said.
Although the pandemic spoiled the Miss Wantagh tradition of honoring local women at the Women of Wantagh, or W.O.W. event in 2020, members of the Court were this year able to recognize four nominees at the pageant and the crowning.
“We didn’t want to go another year without honoring women in our community,” Stevens said.
The Women in Wantagh ceremony will likely be on for March 2022. In coming months, the public can submit nominations for women in the community “that have gone beyond in their contributions,” Stevens said. After the nominations are narrowed down, members of the Court will honor one woman at an event during Women’s History Month in March.