She’s only competed in three pageants, but the third time was a charm for 19-year-old Mattapoisett resident Jillian Zucco. On Sunday, November 11, Zucco was crowned Miss Fall River, which is a local pageant part of the Miss America organization.
“I was so excited,” said Zucco about being crowned. “I was shaking. I actually forgot to hug the previous Miss Fall River. I totally forgot to even put the sash on. I was so excited.”
Zucco competed in her first pageant in September when she entered the Miss New Bedford pageant. Shortly after, she competed in Miss Taunton. In both of those pageants, she placed first runner-up, beating out dozens of contestants who had years of pageant experience.
“My mom actually encouraged me to try Miss New Bedford,” said Zucco. “She said that it was a scholarship pageant, that I can sing well and that I am a good speaker so I should give it a try. I thought I would do well in talent and it was really fun. I was glad that I did it.”
With eight contestants competing in Sunday’s pageant, Zucco was appropriately deemed Contestant 1. The Miss America organization pageants are comprised of several parts, including talent, swimwear, interview, evening wear and onstage question.
“Miss America is all about character, charities and talent,” Zucco said. “I like Miss America because it focuses on the character of people. It’s a way to show your talent, improve your public speaking and express yourself. It’s also a way to spread something you feel strongly about and reach a greater audience.”
Zucco wowed the crowd with a beautiful rendition of Sandi Patty’s “Via Dolorosa” and sparkled in her lime green evening gown. The onstage question allowed her to speak more about her charity platform, “Choose a Cause, Make a Difference.” Zucco’s charity is dedicated to encouraging people to volunteer.
“It’s your duty to take part in your community and give back in a way,” she said. “I think it’s important for young people to learn the intrinsic value of giving. Volunteering is community building.”
Volunteering isn’t the only way Zucco plans to give back to her community, either. She is currently enrolled in the Honors Nursing Program at UMass Dartmouth and is also a licensed EMT. She has her sights on getting her paramedic license so she can be a med-flight nurse and also an ER nurse.
But in the short-term, Zucco will begin her preparations for the Miss Massachusetts pageant, which will be held in June. She said she will be keeping up on current events, working on her interview skills and hitting the gym to prepare. A win there would secure a spot in the Miss America pageant. Zucco is concerned with taking it one step at a time and focusing on the one thing that matters.
“My new philosophy that I’ve discovered lately it’s to be the best me that I can be,” she said. “That’s the best I can do.”
By Katy Fitzpatrick