Angela Perez Baraquio was the first Asian woman to win the Miss America competition. As the eighth of ten children, Angela is the daughter of Filipino immigrants. Her parents immigrated from Pangasinan, Philippines to Hawaii, where she was raised. A faithful Catholic, Baraquio leaned on her faith through pageantry, tragic loss, illness, and family life. Angela Perez Baraquio joins me on The Dignity of Women to share the valuable lessons that she has learned and now implements at the Catholic school where she is principal.
Me, Angela, and Michelle Hillaert
Angela Perez Baraquio
Growing up as the daughter of two teachers, Angela always aspired to follow their lead into the classroom. Her second-grade teacher was another inspiration to her, creating a life-long impression. Finally fulfilling this dream as athletic director and elementary P.E. teacher at Holy Family Catholic Academy in Honolulu, she was challenged by two of her students to enter the Miss Hawaii competition, which she had already entered twice and had no plans to enter again. Accepting their challenge, Baraquio went on to became the first teacher to win the title of Miss Hawaii 2000. This would not be Angela’s last time overcoming odds.
Angela went on to represent Hawaii in the Miss America 2001 competition and became the first Asian to win the Miss America title since the pageant’s inception in 1921. Baraquio’s original intention in joining beauty pageants was to supplement her higher education. The two pageants together netted $14,000 in college scholarship money, which she used to complete her bachelor’s degree in elementary education. The $81,000 scholarship assistance she received as a prize for winning the Miss American pageant went towards her master’s degree in educational administration.
Baraquio married her High School sweetheart, Tinifuloa Grey, in 2002, who is a Polynesian musician. Together, Grey and Baraquio have five children and live in California where Angela is the principal of St. Anthony of Padua School in Los Angeles county. Baraquio is outspoken about her pro-life views and has put her Catholic values above her fame, refusing calendar shoots and television roles that compromise her beliefs.
Angela and husband Tinifuloa
Baraquio used her platform to promote her advocacy of “Character in the Classroom: Teaching Values, Valuing Teachers.” She believes that it is not enough to just aim for high grades. What is more important are the values instilled in the students and their character education. Negative behaviors of students can be turned around in an environment of trust, in which adults model good character traits.
Angela crowning my little guy!
Tragedy, Loss, Illness
Five years after winning the Miss America pageant, and a few days before delivering her second child, Angela’s younger brother Alfred committed suicide. This period of loss shook the Baraquio family and tested their faith. They went to counseling together and a priest walked them through the anxiety surrounding the state of Alfred’s soul. This eventually allowed them to have hope and eventually peace in spite of the incredible pain of his loss.
The Baraquia’s would again face suffering when Angela’s older sister Bernadette contracted and went through treatment for breast cancer. Two years later, Angela herself discovered that she also had breast cancer. Thankfully, she and her sister are both currently in remission.
“Here I was—a former Miss America who loves my hair!—going through hair loss and chemo. It was brutal. Laughing was the only way I could keep from crying.”
- Where faith and beauty pageants intersect!
- Passion for higher education and to be an educator.
- Suicide of Angela’s brother and battle with breast cancer.
- Wife, Mother of 5, Principal of a Catholic school.
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