Ms. United States featured in the Northern Valley NJ Suburbanite Paper: September 22, 2008

Here comes royalty 

Graziella Baratta is reigning queen, Ms. United States

By Sophia Gonzalez
Staff Writer | Sept. 22

Englewood Cliffs — Graziella Baratta enters the café, her train of long brown hair flowing past. She grabs a seat near the window and then turns to flash her crowd-pleasing smile.

"I left my crown and sash at home," Baratta said later.

Staff photo by Joe Camporeale

Ms. United States, Graziella Baratta stands between her hometown of Englewood Cliffs and New York, the state that she represented in this year’s national pageant.

The 29-year-old beauty queen from Englewood Cliffs didn’t seem to need it. Within minutes of her arrival to the café, she had won the curious attention of coffee drinkers seated close by.

Crowned Ms. United States 2008, Baratta is used to the spotlight.

She landed the title after competing as Ms. New York in the national pageant held in Las Vegas nearly two months ago. There, Baratta said that she signed autographs at appearances, rehearsed for the pageant numbers and survived a two-day process of personal interviews with judges.

"Basically, I didn’t close my eyes the entire week," she said.

The experience, however, was not altogether new for the beauty queen.

Baratta held the title of Miss New Jersey in 2004 and 2005, Miss Bergen County in 2001 and 2003, and Miss Middlesex County in 2002. The pageant divisions often allow contestants to compete for titles outside their hometowns, as long as they refrain from competing for two consecutive years.

She said that she immersed herself in the pageantry world following the advice of a close family friend, who had suggested the exposure would boost her career as a professional dancer.

"I wouldn’t say that the agents are there, but it’s gotten me noticed," said Baratta.

While Baratta might have lured some judges with her smoky-eyed stare, she probably stunned the rest with her dance ability.

Having danced since the age of 3, Baratta spends most of her time working in the dance studio. She has performed in everything from music videos to regional and off-Broadway productions.

Her self-described "eclectic style" that borders between hip-hop and musical theatre is also at the heart of G-Volution. The six-member dance company and brainchild of Baratta rehearses their repertoire of jazz, hip-hop, lyrical/musical theatre and tap once a week.

Baratta said that her ultimate goal with the group is to establish its own niche in the market and to take her original "Puttin’ on the G" to new and faraway stages. The group recently finished putting together a press kit to send off to various entertainment entities.

"There’s definitely a barrier that you need to break down in this industry," said Baratta, a self-made entrepreneur. "It’s becoming more and more competitive, that you have to create your own opportunities."

It is what has saved her from the harsh realities of the industry, she said.

"I’ve definitely had moments where maybe I thought, ‘I should quit,’" Baratta said, her perfect posture indicative of her dance training. "But I always bounce back because I’m so passionate and because I have a great support system."

Barratta said that giving that same support to her young students and to children elsewhere is the target of her Ms. United States campaign platform titled "Healthy Habits for Life." Her plan, she said, is to make guest appearances at schools, to keep a blog and to produce an Internet television show about maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

Her volunteer hours will be split with her second platform called "I M FOR WOMAN." In hopes of inspiring and motivating women, Baratta said she has launched a free woman’s network found at The Web site shares beauty, health and fashion tips and offers image-consulting services to women.

"I think that they expect the next Ms. United States to be a role model and to uphold a healthy and positive experience."

So far so good, according to the 29-year-old.

"I’m super happy where I am right now," she said.

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