by MIKE CHAIKEN
WINDSOR — Waterbury, Conn.’s Amanda Torchia made history on Sunday night as she became the first Afghani to become Miss Connecticut USA.
Joining Torchia, in an evening of firsts, South Windsor Conn.’s Nikitha Kikinamada was the first Indian to be crowned Miss Connecticut Teen USA. This placed two South Asian woman in the top slots of the state pageant, which is part of the Miss USA system.
“Waterbury represents,” said Torchia when interviewed following the competition. (She competed as Miss Middlebury because the Waterbury title was already taken.)
To be the first Afghani to hold the Miss Connecticut USA title, said Torchia, 25, “feels amazing.” Addressing all South Asian woman like herself, Torchia said, “You just have to believe in yourself. Don’t let your culture keep you from deciding what you’re going to do in life.”
During her onstage question, after she was selected as among the top five contestants on Sunday, Torchia spoke about what it was like to be from an immigrant family of Afghani descent in America. She said there were a lot of cultural difference between herself and her peers. “I thought I wasn’t good enough, that I wasn’t worth enough…. (that) I had no future.”
But, said Torchia, she realized that her cultural differences were what helped her become who she was. She didn’t have to apologize for her Afghani clothing. She didn’t have to eat her Afghani food in the bathroom at school.
Now, Torchia said, she had the opportunity to stand in front of a crowd, waiting to see if she would become the new Miss Connecticut USA.
“If you feel that opportunities will happen, doors will open for you. You can become Miss Connecticut USA. You can become Miss USA,” said Torchia. “I am so proud to stand here and to see my parents in the crowd.”
Before competing this past weekend, Torchia had considered not going out for Miss Connecticut USA. She had been first runner-up the past two years and didn’t win.
But then, said Torchia, “something inside of me said, ‘Come back, Amanda; you’ve got this.'”
“It’s all in God’s plans,” said Torchia.
Torchia now goes on to compete for the Miss USA title. That competition will be held Nov. 29 in Tulsa, Okla.
After her crowning, Kikinamada was overwhelmed with well-wishers.
“It’s so crazy,” said Kikinamada. “I’m the first Indian American Miss Connecticut Teen USA, so it’s an insane feeling.”
“It feels so fulfilling to have this opportunity,” said Kikinamada, “because a lot of South Asian woman don’t get the opportunities that I do.”
“I hope, wish and pray that I represent them beautifully,” said Kikinamada.
As a representative of the Indian community, Kikinamada, 19, said she hopes to teach the state about her culture.
“There’s so much vibrancy and color to my culture, the food, the outfits,” said Kikinamada. “I want to definitely bring that into the Miss Connecticut Teen USA.”
Kikinamada will be competing for the Miss Teen USA crown on Nov. 27 in Tulsa, Okla.