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Jacqueline DiPasquale: A Phoenix from the Ashes

default article imageOn Saturday, March 28, Jacqueline DiPasquale was greeted with a surprise at her door in Point Pleasant Beach, NJ—a scintillating silver crown and a purple-and-white sash that says, “Miss New Jersey International 2020.”

“This is something that I’ve dreamt of for so long,” said DiPasquale, a Monmouth alumna who graduated in 2015 with a bachelor’s degree in communication with a concentration in radio and television. “And for it to finally come into fruition, even amidst COVID-19, really is a dream come true for me.”

The pageant was originally scheduled to take place at the Crown Plaza in Princeton. However, due to the increased risk of the COVID-19 pandemic, DiPasquale was crowned on her front porch by her tight-knit family—her mom, the owner of a DJ company, her dad, a chiropractor and a high school science teacher, and her younger brother, a freshman at Georgian Court University.

“It was so surreal being able to be crowned by my best friends in the world,” she remarked. “My mom and my grandma had really encouraged me to join pageantry all my life, but unfortunately I was bullied for many years growing up so that took a way a lot of my self-confidence.”

The bullying began in the first grade, then carried into her high school years. She was heavily involved in high school, participating in cheerleading and theatre, assuming student council president, and finishing within the top ten of her graduating class.

“I remember some instances where I would get really good grades and I was very well liked by my teachers, and a lot of times my classmates would pick on me for that,” she explained. “I remember being in my public speaking class my senior year and a few of my classmates had drawn a picture of me with our teacher and posted it on the internet. I remember seeing it and I just bawled my eyes out. I was speechless. I didn’t even know what to say or what to do.”

She continued, “There were a bunch of other instances that had occurred. It was mostly rumors being spread about me, just painting an image of me of someone who I was not at all. I was painted out to be someone who had a lot of anger and revenge on other people. It might have been because I was so shy and had a hard time making friends. I almost believed that I deserved all this hatred towards me.”

But, like a phoenix from the ashes, DiPasquale rose above her bullies and became invincible after discovering that pageantry would become her biggest outlet. As a sophomore at Monmouth in 2012, DiPasquale began pursuing her pageantry dreams when she competed for Miss New Jersey USA 2013. Since then, she has been appointed Miss Ocean County in 2018 before winning her most recent title.

She said, “[Pageantry] helped me gain that self-confidence I needed to share my story and help other people who have felt that same pain that I have.”

Now, DiPasquale uses her platform to promote bullying prevention. Her podcast, titled “1 in 5: From Bullied to Healed” features interviews with bullying victims, allowing them to share their personal stories, as well as professionals who offer unique ways to heal after being bullied.

One guest featured on the podcast is her close friend Jimmy Fanizzi, a 2016 graduate of Monmouth who was picked on in middle school for having an Autism Spectrum Disorder. Both studying radio and TV production, they grew close during their involvement in HawkTV.

“It really is amazing knowing that she uses her own voice to help others, Fanizzi said. “It really uplifts you knowing that someone is really trying to make a difference. With me making friends, most people don’t fully understand exactly who I am. But she’s one of the ones that does.”

After the COVID-19 lockdown comes to an end, DiPasquale plans on meeting with local congressmen to push out an initiative to install anti-bullying clubs in every New Jersey school.

She said, “It’s so important because New Jersey is one of the strictest states when it comes to bullying prevention laws, but you still see so much bullying taking place. The numbers aren’t decreasing. I don’t think that there’s enough student involvement going on. That’s why I really think having a bullying prevention club in every school will really help kids to realize how much their hurtful words and actions really are causing pain to others.”

According to the Education Law Center, the number of reported cases of bullying in New Jersey increased about 16 percent from the 2016-2017 school year to the 2017-2018 school year. But, DiPasquale is ready to decrease that percentage. She is currently prepping for the Miss International 2020 competition on July 31, which marks her fourth time reaching for the crown.

However, DiPasquale said that she wouldn’t describe herself as a “typical pageant girl,” wearing minimal makeup and sporting a black tank top that says, “Human Being Mankind.” It’s the name of the clothing company she is an ambassador for, as their mission to spread kindness coincides with her own platform.

“People don’t realize how much goes into pageantry,” she added. “It’s not just putting on a pretty dress and looking cool on stage. It’s having that eye contact, focusing on your tone of voice and facial expressions, and expressing who you are to everyone.”

She continued, “I want people to see me for my heart and not for the way that I look. The thing that I’m so proud of with the pageant world is that they have been moving in this direction where they really focus on the beauty from within rather than beauty on the outside. That’s what I really focus on when competing in pageantry.”

DiPasquale credits her time at Monmouth for laying down the foundation for her journey to the crown. Choosing a communication major, she learned how to get up in front of an audience and effectively communicate by speaking appropriately and mastering nonverbal cues like eye contact and body language.

DiPasquale further pursued her area of interest by obtaining an online master’s degree in communication from Liberty University in 2019, while simultaneously working full time as a media specialist at a local civil engineering firm and prepping to compete for her Miss New Jersey International title.

She said, “When you’re preparing for a pageant, you’re putting your blood, sweat, and tears into it. You have to know yourself inside and out. If you don’t and if you’re not confident in who you are, don’t compete. That’s what the judges want to see. They want to see you being unapologetically yourself.”

DiPasquale is also on her way to receiving a teaching certificate in speech arts and dramatics. She is looking to bring her platform into a school setting as a high school communication teacher.

“I want to be on the frontlines of where bullying is taking place,” she explained. “I want to teach kids communication and public speaking—everything I was so scared to do when I was their age.”

DiPasquale has previously been invited as a guest speaker at her old middle school during Bullying Prevention Month in October to share her personal story with students. She explained how she found helpful ways of coping—which beyond pageantry includes practicing Christianity and relaxing at the beach near her Point Pleasant home—and how it all led her to become the person she is today.

Fanizzi concluded, “She’s an all-around genuine person and works so hard to do what she does. She has an absolute heart of gold. She has been nothing but an amazing friend to me. Her future is really bright and I’m looking forward to seeing what God has in store for her.”

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Monmouth University
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