Clutching the hands of a fellow competitor, Michelle Medoff stood on stage Sunday night at the Patchogue Theatre for the Performing Arts waiting for the winner of 2014 Miss Long Island Pageant to be revealed. The pool of 21 contestants in the “Miss” division had been narrowed down to Medoff, 21, of Great Neck, and Robin Bonner, 22, of Westhampton.
Both girls closed their eyes as the drum roll sounded, but when Bonner was announced as the first-runner-up, Medoff’s eyes and mouth opened wide.
“It still doesn’t feel real,” said Medoff of her first pageant win.
The actress, model and senior at Hofstra University in Hempstead has been competing in pageants since she was 17.
In their quest for the crown, all the contestants in this year’s Miss Long Island and Miss Long Island Teen pageant underwent interviews, and squared off in the swimsuit and evening gown competitions. The Top 10 discussed the issues they’d advocate for if they won, and the Final Five also had to respond to randomly selected questions.
When Medoff opened the slip of paper containing her question, she was relieved to see it was something she could relate to. Asked how to stop the mass exodus of young adults from Long Island after they graduate college, she said job creation was key.
“I just said how I feel,” said Medoff, admitting that she’s questioned whether she’ll be able to afford to stay on Long Island after graduation.
Nikki Orlando, the winner of the 2013 Miss Long Island Teen pageant and reigning Miss New York Teen USA, said she was impressed with all the contestants’ responses. Orlando, 16, of Smithtown, had just returned from the Bahamas, where she placed in the top 16 of the Miss Teen USA Pageant.
She, along with Miss Long Island Teen 2013 Lauren Doherty and Miss Long Island 2013 Jessi Ricco, had the honor of crowning Medoff and Sabrina Franza, the winner of the 2014 Miss Long Island Teen title.
Franza, 17, of Oceanside, beat out 15 other girls between the ages of 13 and 18, to win her division.
“It’s probably the coolest thing that’s ever happened to me,” Franza said.
The Kellenberg Memorial High School senior ran on a platform of helping teens deal with depression, anxiety and self-hate. Inspired by two friends who struggled with these issues, Franza plans to promote the nonprofit movement, “To Write Love on Her Arms,” during her reign.
As part of their prize package, valued at more than $12,000, the two winners will each receive personalized coaching and a fully paid sponsorship into the New York State pageant.
Medoff also has a personal connection to her platform. During the past decade, Medoff said an immediate family member has been struggling with addiction, and it’s had a major impact on her and her relatives.
“We came from a very dark place,” she said. “We’ve been through a lot as a family and we’ve come such a long way.”
Medoff plans to raise awareness about addiction being a disease and encourage families of addicts to become a “source of support” by turning to groups such as Al-Anon.
She added, “I’d love to be an inspiration for other families to see how you can move forward, you can recover and things can be good again.”