Kingsway grad competes next week for Miss America title, but began her journey many years ago

The Gialloreto family. (Back row from left) Michael, Benny. (Front row) mom Maria, Jaime, and dad, Ben.

There is no official designation for the children born after 1996. The institution that declares, whether anyone asks or not what a generation will be named  (we’re talking about you, Pew Research Center) hasn’t come up with a name to follow Millennials, the youngest of whom is now 22.

This is a bit of a shame because it definitely would be handy to pigeonhole 19-year-old Jaime Gialloreto of Woolwich with a label and everyone could say, “Oh yeah. That’s the …. generation.” The blank space would be filled with a descriptive generally considered appropriate and there’d be a subjective familiarity, as if you really sort of knew Jaime Gialloreto.

Luckily in this case you may actually know, if not Jaime, then ‘of’ Jaime because three months ago in Atlantic City Gialloreto was named Miss New Jersey. As of this writing, she is in preparation to vie for the Miss America 2019 crown Sept. 9, also in Atlantic City.

She would not have known it at the time but her journey to the Miss America Pageant began more than a decade ago.

The daughter of Maria and Benjamin Gialloreto, Jaime was born in Philadelphia and grew up in Woolwich. Her mother is transportation coordinator for the Swedesboro-Woolwich School District and her father is a Philadelphia lawyer.

On the beach, Jaime is flanked by brothers Ben (left) and Michael, whose allergy inspired her campaign to educate about food allergies.

She has two brothers, Ben, her older brother, and Michael, her younger brother. Because of the boys, Jaime said, she had no difficulties negotiating the ins and outs of the middle child.

“I think being the only girl, it keeps me out of the middle-child syndrome,” she suggested with a laugh. “It kept me on my toes.”

Jaime laughs a lot, a catchy, inviting laugh, and recognizes in herself an outgoing nature she credits to her father. “My dad is the outgoing (parent) and I’m a lot like my dad, I guess.”

But it was her mother, she said, who signed her up for dancing classes as a young child. “I really loved to dance,” she remembered. “From when I was small, I loved it.”

Dance class, it can be said through hindsight, began Jaime’s path toward pageantry. She attended the Tricia Sloan Dance Center in Wenonah, a business with a strong connection to the Miss America pageant.

“Tricia was involved with the pageants for Miss America and she competed as a contestant,” Jaime said. Miss America contestants work their way up a ladder of local pageants to the state level, where winners are automatically invited to compete for the prestigious national title.

From the viewpoint of a young girl, the Miss America Pageant was a lofty goal. But not an impossible one.

You get the feeling that “impossible” hasn’t found its way into Jaime’s vocabulary yet. She began competing on a small scale at local venues, from dance reviews to small-town “queen” pageants.

Many of these took place at the Wildwood Crest shore area, where the Gialloretos spent summers vacationing with family. Her mother said Jaime began competing in pageants at about 15 years old, with a goal of winning the state title.

Importantly, it happened that Jaime met Brenna Weick of Mantua, another dancer, at the Sloan Center. They became close friends, confidantes, and supporters in a mutual quest for the crown.

The 2018 Miss New Jersey with her close friend, Brenna Weick, Miss New Jersey 2016.

In 2016 Weick won the Miss New Jersey contest. Weick went on to become a reporter for a Florida TV station but came back to New Jersey to root for her friend Jaime during this summer’s Miss New Jersey pageant.

“She’s a close friend,” the newest Miss New Jersey said of her predecessor. “Now we’re sister queens.”

The Miss New Jersey pageant week will be a happy memory for her, Jaime said, but not because she won. Well, not only because she won. “It’s been a lot of fun,” the title-holder said. “I met really amazing people at the pageant and I love hearing other people’s stories. You can learn a lot from listening.”

Becoming a pageant winner requires much more than picking out apparel or practicing your smile. Jaime, for example, said her family taught her the value of listening, a key component of her personality.

“I’m a pretty good listener now. I tend to talk a lot so I learned to stand back and listen. My family got on me for it because I tended to fight for a lot of attention.”

In fact, she said, her family, including her brothers, has been her biggest support system through the years of competition. “They’ve been awesome,” she said about her two brothers. “I think they liked the competitive side. Or they’d console me if I didn’t win. It was a family affair to go to pageants.”

There is a certain personality needed to succeed at competitions where you are constantly judged and Jaime has consistently thrown herself into that aspect of her personality. It’s her passion, she said, for whatever she becomes involved with.

At Kingsway she jumped into activities from boys soccer team manager to cheerleading, to founding a book club, to student council, yearbook, model congress and much more. Her name appeared on lists of honors and kudos and successes throughout her high school years.

And this activity was in addition to her summer competitions through the laddership of pageantry. “I’ve always been heavily invested in everything I got involved in,” Jaime said, matter-of-factly.

But one thing Jaime was reluctant to say much about is the worrisome events just before her senior year. A talented dancer, the teenager spent many hours practicing routine after routine, moves after moves. Any professional competition requires the same kind of dedication that sports does, if improvement is the desired outcome.

Her dedication damaged both her hips. It became painful to dance or to make many ordinary movements. The labrum, a sort of rim of fibrous cartilage that cushions the hip socket, tore in both her hips. The best treatment is often surgery to repair the tears, followed by lengthy rest and rehabilitation.

Dance is Jaime’s talent in the pageants and she agreed to the surgeries. Asked if her condition was alarming, she answered a simple, “Yes.”

Did accepting surgery require courage? “For sure,” she answered. It was four months, she said, before the doctors OK’d her to “ease back into dance.”  That is all she chose to say about it, an injury that could well have stopped her from competing.

To get in shape for the Miss New Jersey contest, Jaime follows what must be an exhaustive schedule of workouts and practice. She has a personal trainer and plays catch with 12-pound medicine balls after various sit-ups and pushups or whatever she needs.

She admits she will miss not competing in the swimsuit portion of the Miss America Pageant. New rules have done away with that particular tradition in an effort to modernize the contest.

“I see the swimsuit competition as empowering to women,” Jaime said. “We work very hard to get in shape and maintain our health. I like the swimsuit. I had fun with it. So that being said, I don’t think that defines me and it takes some pressure off. It provides more platform for (showcasing) women’s ideas and ideals.”

Jaime’s platform is educating and warning about food allergies, a condition her younger brother faces.

Enrolled at Loyola University, Maryland, Jaime is studying communications, with an eye to becoming a broadcast journalist, like her friend, Brenna. Or, she would like to get into law, like her father.

The world is open. “I want to do something with social issues, maybe women and children, or civil rights. I want to be working with people,” Jaime said. “I’m open to pretty much everything, to wherever life takes me. And absolutely, I am an optimist.”

Good luck to Jaime Gialloreto at the Miss America Pageant. But win or not, perhaps she has already shown us a possible designation for the post-Millennial generation.

If others in her birth cohort show the same tendencies toward enthusiasm, passion, empathy and drive, they will be the “Can Do” generation.

By Jean Redstone

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June 1, 2023, 7:17 pm
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