What does it mean to be “beautiful”?
According to Nancy Gómez, Miss Latin American of the World, the definition of “beautiful” transcends physical appearance. “Beauty comes from within,” she says, “Sometimes it’s with their spirituality, sometimes with their mind, their thoughts, their actions, and/or their relationships with others, but it all comes from within and so that is how it shines through to the outer self.”
To call Nancy Gómez just a beauty queen is an understatement. Gómez is usually surrounded by books, articles and a computer, and she considers herself a perfectly normal person who happens to occasionally wear a crown and a sash. Most of the time her conversations orbit around the Spanish language, literature and culture.
As an Arizona State University doctoral student, she teaches Spanish and researches Chicana literature and its impact in the community. In addition to being a scholar and a teacher, she has always wanted to participate in pageants. “I never thought I would be able to since I always second-guessed myself and didn’t really think I could succeed in it,” Gómez says.
Gómez’s beauty contest journey started about three years ago when she let go of her doubts and participated in her first pageant: Miss Arizona Latina. She ended up as first runner up. “Not bad for someone who had no experience in pageants, much less modeling,” she says. After that, nothing stopped her. In 2018, she hired a professional pageant trainer to help her win Miss Arizona Latina. Her preparation intensified for the Miss U.S. Latina pageant that same year, where she also took the title and had the opportunity to represent the United States at the international Miss Latin America of the World pageant in the Dominican Republic. Last September, Nancy Gómez took that crown home, making her the first Arizonan to win the world title.
Gómez continues to be an ambassador of her Latino heritage and the Spanish language. She doesn’t walk around campus with her crowns (she keeps them safely in her closet where she can stare at them as much as she wants), but everything she does, from the classroom to her research to motivational talks, is inspired by the love of her roots and her passion for her culture. PHOENIX recently caught up with Gómez to discuss her discipline and commitment in beauty pageants and her Ph.D.
What inspired you to participate in beauty pageants?
I remember watching the Miss Universe pageant with my mom when I was little one time. We were both excited to see all the contestants and how amazing they were doing in each round (swimwear, evening gown, last questions, etc.). As the pageant progressed, I was just thrilled; they were all amazingly gorgeous and extremely smart, too. Suddenly, my mom told me that if I wanted, I could also be in a pageant too because she saw potential in me. That stayed with me since.
What was the thing that scared you the most while in the beauty pageant?
I’m a little clumsy when I wear high heels, so I was super scared of tripping and falling while on stage. Thankfully, that didn’t happen.
How have these pageants changed your life?
My life has changed in many ways. Though I have always been surrounded by amazing and supportive people throughout my life, through my pageant participations I have felt more confident about myself. For the first time, I feel that what I have to say and what I do matters, not just as a professional, but also as a human. Most importantly though, I have grown closer to my community, something I consider as the most rewarding achievement.
How do you balance school and your crown obligations?
Fortunately, the title puts school as a priority and it’s also nice that I am in the last stage of my school studies, so they are both quite flexible. However, most events occur during the weekends, therefore I can spend my weekdays on schoolwork.
What’s your motto?
I would say that I have two of them:
“More than a model, a role model.” This is actually the motto for the Miss U.S. Latina pageant. When I first saw it, I loved it simply because, well, I consider myself a model in progress, but a zesty, action-packed role model.
The second one and the one that helped me push through my pageant journey is “A queen never loses, she either wins or she learns.” I feel this one is powerful because we tend to place results in two categories, “good or bad,” “success or failure,” “win or lose,” when in reality there is no such thing as that. Everything in life is a learning process and an “unsuccessful attempt” is just another step to your future success, that is, of course, if you are determined to work hard and succeed.
What are your plans for 2020?
Community wise, I plan to continue to collaborate with different community organizations and encourage youth to strive for success. Personally, I plan to graduate with my Ph.D., but also find ways to continue to grow professionally, spiritually and become even closer with those who have helped shape me.
Any advice that you would like to share?
If you are thinking of doing something you always wanted to try, but are afraid of what people might say or because you think your time has passed, let me tell you, it’s never too late and people will always have something to say! As my mother always tells me, “As long as there is life, there is hope.” So go for it!
To learn more about Nancy Gómez, you can follow her on Instagram.