by MIKE CHAIKEN
Waterbury-native Teresa Ladopoulos Nakouzi’s reign came to an end this past Saturday, June 8. But the memories will linger and her community efforts will continue.
Nakouzi, who was Mrs. Connecticut America 2018 – 2019, handed over her crown to her successor Julie Cangialosi at the annual competition held at the Mohegan Sun in Uncasville.
With her responsibilities as the titleholder at an end, Nakouzi had time to reflect on the past year.
“The Mrs. Connecticut America experience changes you, and it changes you forever,” said Nakouzi in an email interview. “I was so emotionally and personally invested in the opportunity to serve Connecticut’s towns, cities, organizations, and charities – and the crown and sash helped me accomplish my goal.”
The title also offered Nakouzi the opportunity to travel across the state under the shelter of her crown and sash so she could help others. “I never slowed down, and I never stopped attending functions and fundraisers… I encountered all sorts of people with different perspectives.” She has made “wonderful” contacts at Special Olympics CT, Make A Wish, Read to Grow, K9 First Responders and Gizmo.”
“Thank goodness I have the most loving and brilliant husband, Elie, who always supports me,” said Nakouzi.
With the end of her year as Mrs. Connecticut, said Nakouzi, she had nothing but gratitude for the experience.
“I don’t feel as if my reign is necessarily ending, since I am still thankfully receiving requests to host, fund raise, and speak,” said Nakouzi.
Also she will still have a hand in the Mrs. America system as a co-director of the program in Connecticut as well as in Rhode Island and New Jersey.
Nakouzi’s year as Mrs. Connecticut provided her an opportunity to learn about herself. She learned she enjoys the people of Connecticut. She has a knack for networking. And she learned that it’s important for her to learn something new every day.
As part of her experience as Mrs. Connecticut and competing at Mrs. America, Nakouzi was able to meet contestants from throughout the country. “It was a tremendous blessing to meet beautiful women from all the corners of the America… We bonded instantly because we had so much in common, and promised to maintain our friendships.”
“I’ll still text or email some of them if I need a listening ear,” said Nakouzi.
Nakouzi, who was born in Waterbury, wasn’t new to the world of pageants when she competed for the Mrs. Connecticut America title.
“I grew up in Prospect, and in 1986 my mom secretly registered me for Miss Prospect America,” said Nakouzi. During that first pageant experience, she didn’t win. But she did pick up the Miss Congeniality award.
However, Nakouzi said, “I thought my days of pageants were behind me.”
Thirty-three years later after her pageant ambitions had been shelved, Nakouzi’s husband was approached by two Mrs. America titleholders who were trying to convince him to have his wife enter the competition.
Nakouzi said her husband was told the title required his wife to do some public speaking, some hosting, and wearing the occasional cocktail dress.
When Nakouzi’s husband shared the information, she said, “I was sold.”
Nakouzi also saw the title as a chance to promote Connecticut, and the city she loves—Waterbury.
Nakouzi’s ties to Waterbury run deep. Besides being born in Waterbury herself, her grandparents were born in Waterbury as was her mother. Greek on one side and Italian on the other, Nakouzi also directed the religious education program at Waterbury’s Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church. She also learned public speaking under the tutelage of former Waterbury mayor, George Harlamon.
Now that she has relinquished the title of Mrs. Connecticut America, Nakouzi does not plan to relinquish the pace she set for herself this past year.
Nakouzi said she wants to continue “to be a positive ambassador for the wonderful people of Connecticut.”