by MIKE CHAIKEN
Amanda Torchia admits the cultural melding of her parents is an unlikely one.
Torchia, a Waterbury resident and the current Miss Connecticut USA, is the daughter of an Italian father, Luca, and an Afghani mother, Melissa, who live in upstate New York.
“Isn’t that a funny mix,” she said of the Afghani-Italian marriage alliance. “You would never expect that.”
Torchia, 25, said her parents’ romance, eventual marriage and parenthood also began in an unlikely location.
“They met at a car wash of all places, a random car wash,” said Torchia, who works in early childhood education.
“My mom was actually the one who approached my dad. It’s funny; my mom is so outgoing, so personable, and my dad can be a little on the shy side.”
“I feel as if they fell in love at first sight and it was history from there,” she said.
Torchia, who will compete for the Miss USA title in November, said some might think there were moments of discomfort when the Italian side of the relationship met the Afghani side. But she said there was no problem at all.
“It was definitely different at first (to have the two different cultures meet),” Torchia said. “But both sets of my grandparents are so welcoming and so warm and loving. I think they saw that their two children were so happy that they were really accepting of it.”
Asked how the household handled the two disparate cultures when she was growing up, she said “the food at our family parties is insane. We’ve got the Italian food and we have the Afghani food, and I personally love both.”
The positive way her family melded the two cultures, Torchia said, “really taught me as a young girl to not only be accepting of myself and my own differences but to accept others. … You may be of a different culture, you may be a different religion or skin color, (but) it doesn’t matter at the end of the day because what matters is your ability to accept (those differences).”
Torchia acknowledged that much of the wider perception of Afghani culture is negative, mostly driven by stories in the news.
That lack of positive portrayal about her mother’s homeland was something she struggled with growing up, as did her mom when she was growing up.
An entire people has been judged by the negative actions of a few, said Torchia, noting the same situation is true for people from Middle East countries.
“That really taught me you can’t judge someone based off where they come from,” Torchia said. “You judge them based on who they are and what they do. You can’t judge someone because of what another person’s actions are.”
“I feel, coming from (Afghani) culture, there’s so much beauty in it,” she said. “I feel sad because people really don’t get to see that, unfortunately.”
As Miss Connecticut USA, Torchia said she hoped she can show “we are a good people” despite the negative actions of others.
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