The next stars of reality TV?

Imagine flipping through the channels one day only to see . . . your next door neighbor.
This very well might be, as the talented contestants in the Miss Howard Beach Pageant may soon go from local stars – to small screen celebrities.
It all started when Victoria Pellegrino, a talent agent and pageant winner herself, saw the potential of those taking acting classes at the local youth center.
“There is so much talent right here in this area,” she said, “that we decided we should showcase the girls’ talent.”
Teaming up with Frances O. Scarantino of Reach for the S.T.A.R.S., a pageant was born.
Aside from showcasing well-rounded girls between the ages of four and 24 from the neighborhood, the pageant co-directors stress that girls get involved in the community – by cleaning up Charles Park, volunteering at the food pantry and more.
They have confirmed that “a few different networks” may be interested in doing a reality show around the pageant.
Currently, they are working on a sizzle reel, which is a two to five minute “long commercial” of what the show would be about.
“This is the first of many steps,” said Scarantino. “The focus [of the show] would be behind the scenes, and this gives the producers an idea.”
The girls, including Lisa Taveras, 12; Ashley Kern, 8, an avid dancer and trophy winner; Michelle Laringa, 15; Nicole Hamill, 16; Jessica Tufano, 16; Joli Russo, 7, a pageant winner and actress who has appeared in “What would you do?” on ABC; Jessica Turkeshi, 16; Dominique Sollecito, 6; and Lisa Addabbo, 21 (niece of the senator), all told The Courier that they’d be excited to be on TV – but that they’re more excited about showing the world what Howard Beach is all about.
“Everyone knows each other by face and by family in Howard Beach,” said Tufano.
“We’ll be showing everyone that beauty is not just on the outside, but on the inside,” echoed Hamill.
Pellegrino and Scarantino explained that the opportunity to be on TV – and the pageant itself – are “good springboards” for the girls to “get exposure and experience,” and build self confidence.
“I want to show America who we are and what we have to offer,” said Scarantino. “There is so much talent [in the community].”
But more than just wanting to be in front of the camera, the girls work behind the scenes – volunteering at Reach for the S.T.A.R.S., feeding the hungry, being involved with Kids Who Care, a local community service committee, and helping out at local schools, senior centers and so much more.
“We raise a lot of money for a lot of people and causes,” said Lisa Russo, Joli’s mom. “We want to be able to show the type of girls we have – those who help their neighbors and can make a change.”
Lisa Addabbo summed it up – “I like to be a role model,” said the soon-to-be grad student.
Stay with The Courier as we follow the progress of the pageant and profile the girls.

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