Checking in with Miss Connecticut



MERIDEN — With the national Miss America competition just around the corner, current Miss Connecticut Sylvana Maria González will be the first Latina in 21 years to represent the state since Marissa Cardona earned the title in 2001.

González came out to the Aqua Turf Club in Plantsville last week to present the 2022 Readers’ Choice Awards held by the Record-Journal. While standing on stage and reading the winners, she wore a sparkly crown, bedazzled sash, and form-fitting electric blue dress – $10 from Windsor Fashions at the Meriden Mall, she confided.

González, of New Britain, was named Miss Connecticut 2022 during a statewide competition held at the Mohegan Sun in April. This December, she will be representing the state in the Miss America competition which will also be held at the Mohegan Sun.

“I felt at first an immense amount of joy, a little bit of pressure, but then a lot of excitement knowing that I am what I needed to see when I was younger,” she said.

Competition rebranded 

Even though Connecticut hasn’t won the competition since 1933, Connecticut continues to bring home “firsts” to Miss America’s long history. Last year’s Miss Connecticut, Sapna Raghavan, told CT Insider that she was the first contestant to perform classical Indian dance as her talent. Her platform, equal opportunity for women, matched the changing cultural values that mark the pageant’s new policy.

Miss America rebranded itself as a competition – not a pageant – ahead of the 2019 edition. As part of the rebrand, the 501 c(4) Social Organization eliminated the swimsuit portion, announced candidates would no longer be judged on physical appearance and refocused on the scholarships they offer.

“We’re experiencing a cultural revolution in our country with women finding the courage to stand up and have their voices heard on many issues. Miss America is proud to evolve as an organization and join this empowerment movement,” said Gretchen Carlson, Chair of the Board of Trustees, in a 2018 press release that announced the change.

González said she is the first Latina Miss Connecticut in 21 years since Marissa Cardona — then Marissa Perez — won the title in 2001. Cardona now works as a college and career coordinator for Meriden Public Schools. She is the wife of Miguel Cardona, U.S. Education Secretary and former Meriden school administrator.

“Representing Connecticut as a Latina is something I will forever be grateful for. My parents came to Connecticut leaving the beautiful Isla del Encanto to achieve the American dream. Representing my family and the state of Connecticut is something I will forever hold close to my heart,” Marissa Cardona said.

During her year, Cardona remembers she promoted her platform “Alcohol Abuse and Prevention” statewide and sang “This Time Around” on the Miss America stage.

For this year’s competition, González said she will be the first person to present Latin Jazz as her talent on the main stage of Miss America, and the only Puerto Rican who will compete this year. She added that she will be wearing her natural curly hair to challenge traditional Latin American beauty standards.

“Being from Latin America, they say, ‘for special occasions, you got to straighten it,’ but I’m like, ‘Why aren’t we teaching them they’re beautiful just the way that they are?’”

González said the Connecticut competition was a chance to get scholarships and go back to college after she dropped out. After trying for the title for five years, she said she received a $10,000 scholarship for her Connecticut title win.

Advocating against domestic violence

In addition to the scholarship, González won the title of Miss Connecticut on a social impact initiative called “With Heart, Redressing the Run of Abuse.” González, who faced domestic violence, is advocating for women to “protege tu paz,” which means protect your peace in Spanish.

Domestic violence faced a sharp uptick nationwide after lockdown caused by isolation and pandemic-related financial stressors. About 39,000 victims received services from the 18 sites of the Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence in the fiscal year 2021. According to a report prepared by the coalition, this represented a 5% increase from the previous fiscal year.

The report also found that a significant portion of domestic violence happens among Latinos. Safe Connect is Connecticut’s domestic violence coordinated resource hub. Of the about 28,000 contacts, 21% of those that reached out self-reported they were Latino.

Back on the stage at the Readers’ Choice Awards, González gave a shout-out to Chrysalis Domestic Violence Services of Meriden-Wallingford when the agency won the award for best provider of domestic violence services.

lguzman@record-journal.com, Twitter: @lguzm_n

Latino Communities Reporter Lau Guzmán is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms. Support RFA reporters at the Record-Journal through a donation at https://bit.ly/3Pdb0re, To learn more about RFA, visit www.reportforamerica.org.



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