ELKHART — For her first pageant ever, Jennifer Estrada of Elkhart hasn’t done too badly.
First crowned Miss Indiana Latina in April, Estrada was also named one of seven finalists in the Miss U.S. Latina competition in Atlanta.
“This is my first pageant ever. I guess I got lucky. I had no experience whatsoever,” she said following the competition. “I won the People’s Choice.”
Since being crowned Miss Indiana Latina, doors have opened up for her, Estrada said.
As a former student of the Chicago Arts Academy, Estrada even did her final showcase performance in California.
“It gave me a good idea of how the industry works, but I really wanted to finish high school,” she said. She was 15 at the time. “ I loved to act but once it came to theater in high school I never wanted to do it because everyone knew me and I didn’t want to embarrass myself. Acting classes really helped me to get out of my shell.”
After winning the local pageant, Estrada gained the confidence to return to acting.
“It felt like if I could win the pageant, I could do this.”
Born and raised in Elkhart by Honduran parents, Estrada is a graduate of Concord High School and currently works as an assistant manager at a Sprint store in Elkhart. She’s also attending Ivy Tech Community College for business administration before she goes to Indiana University South Bend.
She’s also recently been recruited by the Indiana Talent Agency and has already begun acting in commercials locally.
“I want to be known for more than the beauty side,” she said. “One of my dreams is to be an actress but at the same time to get a degree in business.”
Currently 23 states and Puerto Rico participate in the Miss US Latina Competition. Winners from the state competitions travel to a new location each year for nationals, and winners of nationals move on to the world competition, which is hosted in Latin America. This year, the Miss Latin America of the World pageant will be held in Occidental Punta Cana, Dominican Republic.
This year’s Miss U.S. Latina crown went to Jennifer Patiño of California. First runner-up was Missouri’s Athziri Figueroa and second runner-up was Arizona’s Yulissa Felix. Semi-finalists were Estrada, Florida’s Anna Cristina Brewer, Nebraska’s Dayana Sifontes, Texas’ Kathleen Navarro and New Mexico’s Gloria Lopez.
On Oct. 1, the new Miss Latin America of the World was crowned, Nancy Gomez, a former Miss U.S. Latina from Arizona.
The pageant is already accepting contestants for the 2020 competition. Single women between the ages of 18 and 27 who were born or whose parents were born in a Latin American or Iberian country and who legally reside in the United States are eligible. A Miss U.S. Latina Teen pageant also exists for girls 14 to 17. Next year’s Miss U.S. Latina pageant will be held in Florida.