Sophomore recreational therapy major Lydia Pinto was crowned Miss East Carolina University 2020 in a virtual crowning ceremony on Sept. 19 and took away the People’s Choice award at the virtually held Miss ECU pageant.
Even though she could not be on stage with her fellow contestants to hear the results of the pageant, Pinto said her win was still just as sweet. She said she is “still on cloud nine” and that it feels surreal to officially be named Miss ECU.
“When they first called my name I was completely in shock, I just didn’t even know how to react or words to describe my emotions, so definitely it feels amazing but also I don’t know if it’s completely set in,” Pinto said. “I think it will set in the first time I appear on campus or somewhere in the Greenville community with my crown and sash. I think that’s when it will hit me fully.”
Pinto said that being able to see the reactions of the other contestants was a unique aspect of the virtual ceremony. She said, if the ceremony had been in person, she isn’t sure she would have focused on the other contestants' faces and reactions if they stood side-by-side on stage.
Because the crowning ceremony was not in person, Pinto said she invited some of her friends and family over to watch the livestream of the results with her. She said that while she wished the crowning ceremony could have been in person, she was glad to have people that would have usually been in the audience right next to her in the moment she heard she won.
“It was really cool that I got to experience it so close with my parents and my family necessarily instead of just like after being crowned you’re just standing on stage,” Pinto said. “I got to react and give both my parents a big hug and everything so that was really cool that I got to actually like be hands on with them instead of just being in front of them and seeing my reaction they got to kind of feel it more-or--less.”
There will be a personal crowning ceremony in-person for Pinto and her family at which Miss ECU 2019, Tiffany Robertson, who is also the current president of CrownMe organization, will crown Pinto physically. She said the small ceremony will be private, probably outside and will follow proper masking and social distancing protocols.
As Miss ECU, Pinto said she will focus her work in the community around helping people with disabilities, be they cognitive or physical. She said she is a Young Life leader for a group of students with special needs. One event she said she would like to plan as Miss ECU is a fashion show or mini pageant for her friends in Young Life.
“They would get to come and put on their favorite dress or their favorite outfit and we would do a little fashion show and everyone would kind of get the opportunity to show their personality and then maybe wear a crown or maybe just a little prize or something like that. So that’s one thing I really want to do with my platform because I like to make sure everyone feels loved and included,” Pinto said.
Robertson said that although she got a little emotional during her farewell speech, she is so happy for Pinto to start her journey as Miss ECU that she “can’t be sad about” giving up her crown. She said she thinks Pinto’s connections around campus is one of the factors that will make her a great Miss ECU.
“Something that I think makes Lydia unique is definitely just her ability to go up and talk to anybody and everybody. I myself am a very social person but I still get kind of nervous when I need to talk to somebody new or it’s like a very important conversation and I feel like Lydia just jumps in head first and that’s how she makes so many great connections with people,” Robertson said.
Because the 2020 pageant was postponed due to COVID-19 there are only a few months until the 2021 pageant. Rather than Pinto getting a shortened reign as Miss ECU, Robertson said Pinto and Miss ECU 2021 will reign together until the 2022 pageant. She said she hopes this will extend the reach of the pageant into the community and increase awareness.
Applications for the 2021 Miss ECU pageant are open and will close on Oct. 1.