Selbyville is home to a new pageant winner and community leader: 17-year-old Ana Calles was crowned Miss Hispanic Delaware this week.
“It’s still very surreal to me, because it’s just something that I’ve been wanting for a long time, and that it’s actually manifested into reality — it’s very surreal,” Calles said.
She has just begun 11th grade at Indian River High School. As the pageant’s only downstate contestant, Calles said she was happy to stand out geographically, despite the necessity of the two-hour drive to the Baby Grand theater in Wilmington’s Grand Opera House for rehearsals and the competition.
Calles represented Mexico in the Aug. 26 program, which celebrates Hispanic culture and is designed to help young ladies develop poise and communication skills. Calles has lived in Selbyville all her life, except for a few years in Mexico when she was younger.
“I was nervous throughout the whole day, but after our opening-number dance, I felt more confident and comfortable on stage,” she said of her very first pageant.
Calles had dreamed of competing for years, but her family had just suffered the painful impact of losing her mother in April.
“I just wanted to make her proud her proud, overall, even though I know just competing made her proud,” Calles said. “I know she was with me that night. I could feel her.”
But other women have supported Calles through this process. A teacher drove Calles to many rehearsals and helped her fundraise; a library friend/coworker helped her dress backstage on Saturday night; a school administrator was in the audience.
Her father and sister were also in the audience Saturday night to see the crown placed on her head.
For her pageant platform, Calles will promote volunteerism. She said she wants to encourage people to personally get involved in the many areas they feel passionate about and feel the pride that volunteerism brings.
Calles herself has volunteered for several years at the Selbyville Public Library, which led to her paid job as program assistant there. She recently helped them organize National Hispanic Heritage Month events, which will begin Sept. 15. She also enjoys art and will join the Yearbook Club this year at IRHS.
The pageant only invites a maximum of 12 girls to participate each year, Calles said. The older teens (15 to 17) are role models for contestants in the Little Miss (ages 7 to 10) and Junior Miss (11 to 14) competitions.
All summer, at weekly rehearsals in Wilmington (for which Calles even hired Uber rides to attend), they practiced their introduction speech, dance, individual talents, communication skills and poise/gown walk.
She was crowned while wearing a satiny red evening gown, which she said represents “my culture and my country [and] the blood of the Mexican heroes who died in the Mexican War of Independence.”
Calles actually taught herself piano by watching YouTube videos and attempting to play music by ear. So she performed on piano keyboard, starting with a Beethoven intro that led into a soulful John Legend song.
Her pageant performance proved that the key to a good performance is not just perfection, but confidence, even after a mistake. Although she felt herself freeze during an interview question and miss a piano note, she kept her composure onstage.
“I was just trying to stay cool and, hopefully, people wouldn’t catch it,” she said.
Calles was definitely prepared, which paved the way for her interview question: “Has social media done more harm or good?” She said social media helps people communicate, especially small businesses, although there are some dangers for younger users. “I believe it has positives and negatives. You just have to be cautious,” she concluded.
Calles will be awarded a college scholarship at the end of her reining year.
She thanked her family, friends, library coworkers, local pageant sponsors, Cathy Durham from Sew-Crazy Creations and “everyone else who supported me throughout this journey … and, of course, God. All the glory is for Him.”
She said she prayed throughout the competition — not just to win, but that everything would happen according to God’s plan.
The pageant began in 1972 and is celebrated with the Wilmington Hispanic Festival. Both are hosted by Nuestras Raices Delaware Inc., a community nonprofit that promotes Latino culture.
The event and scholarship program aims to build self-esteem and confidence, while showcasing the students’ natural beauty and intelligence. The pageant also highlights culture and creates public awareness about the Hispanic community’s contributions in Delaware.
Calles has already begun making public appearances, and she said she is especially looking forward to attending Sussex County events, such as Georgetown’s Festival Hispano. She said she really wants to bring people together in Delaware’s north and south.
“I want to be able to contact Hispanics and make relationships, and bring the community together … break that barrier between Sussex County and upstate,” she said.
Any group that would like to invite Ana Calles to attend an event can email MissHispanicDE@gmail.com.