NAM: Tell us about yourself:
Michaela: I am a 20 year old college sophomore at the University of Florida majoring in Biology and minoring in Mass Communications, in the hopes of pursuing a career as a Pediatric Dentist. I wanted to strike a balance between my love for science, journalism, and being in front of the camera. With this heavy course load, you will often find me in the library with Starbucks in hand!
My family and I migrated from the Philippines when I was 10 years old leaving behind a very comfortable life, family and friends. Transitioning into a new culture and a different lifestyle was extremely hard however we were blessed to have found very supportive neighbors and friends. Now I can say that my family is a hybrid of the best of the American culture and the traditional Filipino values. I can proudly say that I speak three different languages!
NAM: What activities are you involved in?
Michaela: I am an active member of my sorority Zeta Tau Alpha – Gamma Iota Chapter where I participate in philanthropy, service, and sisterhood events weekly! This is something I am very passionate about because I have found my best friends through this sisterhood and continue to find girls who are driven, passionate, and involved.
One of the greatest things that have stemmed off from pageants, is that I have had the honor and privilege to emcee for numerous local, state, national, and international pageants and events. I love being able to travel around the country to host great productions and grow as a public speaker and as a person.
NAM: What are your plans for the future?
Michaela: I am someone who is very goal driven and one of my biggest dreams is to set up my own practice as a renowned pediatric dentist. With the University of Florida being ranked as one of the top dental schools in the country, I spend countless hours in the library, sipping ounces upon ounces of Starbucks coffee a week, making sure I can attain the highest GPA possible in a very competitive class. I believe in my grandfather’s motto, “The seeds that you sow today are the very fruits that you will reap tomorrow.” In addition, I would love to star on my own TV show delivering the latest news, fashion, and celebrity gossip!
NAM: How would your friends describe you?
Michaela: If my friends were to be asked, they would say that I am someone who is very bubbly, quirky, and loud! I love to make the most of every moment and to remind the people around me to not take life too seriously! They would also share my obsession of Snapchatting every little exciting thing that occurs in my live as well as trying to capture the perfect Instagram picture and caption. (Perfect filters and a witty caption are a must, am I right ladies?!”
NAM: What motto or quote best describes you?
Michaela: A quote I love to share to others is “There is no such as failure, only delayed success.” I acknowledge that life is not always perfect – it has its ups and downs and we do not always get what we have hoped for. But it is very important to keep an optimistic attitude and to believe in God’s plans for us.
This quote hits home for me because I have strived to capture the NAM National title for so many years! I have come so close to the national title as a runner up in 2011 and 2014 in the Jr. Teen and Teen division. I have been disappointed but I know that I simply had to put my faith in God and continue to prepare, learn from my mistakes, and hope that I will one day find my judges – and I did.
NAM: What is the best advice you have ever received?
Michaela: My dad has always instilled in me the importance of being optimistic. Life is not always perfect – with its many challenges and frustrations, it is easy to doubt yourself and your future, however you simply need to be positive and recognize that God has great plans for all of us in His own time.
NAM: How did you prepare for the NAM National pageant?
Michaela: Though it was very different and difficult to prepare for NAM Nationals as a college student who could not always come home to practice, preparing for NAM was still fun for me as it was a family activity! My entire family got so involved. My parents became my pageant coaches. My brother offered to do all the household chores so my sister and I would have more pageant practice time. They were very supportive as they knew that I had to strike a balance between school and my preparations. I would Facetime my Dad to practice Interview and Personal Introduction and when I came home for the weekend, that is when Formal Wear and Casual Wear were being practiced.
NAM: Where is your favorite place to shop?
Michaela: I love shopping at Agaci and Sephora! You will definitely see me shop till I drop!
NAM: What is your favorite TV show?
Michaela: Whether it’s on my Netflix account or on TV, you can always find the TV show “Forensic Files” running. I am so intrigued by the mystery of the murder and kidnapping cases as well as how the detectives use science and forensics to close the case. “Investigation Discovery ID” is my favorite TV network and though it freaks my mom out during the night, I have a deeply rooted interest in it. In fact, something people do not know about me, is that I actually tried to minor in Forensics and Criminology! This is something that I am extremely passionate and interested about.
NAM: What is your favorite book?
Michaela: I am an avid reader and a giant bookworm! I could read the large Harry Potter books in one day! Though I love my J.K. Rowling novels, my favorite book is “A Child Called It” by Dave Pelzer. It is about a young boy who is physically, mentally, and emotionally abused by his mother. This book was very touching and it made me appreciate my mom even more. I am so grateful for all the sacrifices she makes to give my family everything we want and need. Also, the book has taught me to never judge someone because we may not always have the complete story of what they are going through. It is vital for us to do even the little things to make a positive impact in someone else’s life.
NAM: How do you plan to use your title?
Michaela: Having waited years to hold the NAM National title, I plan to use the crown and banner as a microphone and a platform to touch the lives of others. Through appearances, volunteer service opportunities, and social media I hope to be a beacon of hope to never give up on your dreams no matter the obstacles and to show the world the importance of staying true to yourselves while serving others.
NAM: How do you volunteer in your community?
Michaela: My sister and I started our own non-profit organization, “Crowns and Tiaras for a Cause” five years ago that centers around the platform, “Alzheimer’s Awareness.” Living in a retirement area, we understand the importance of giving back to the elderly who have imparted knowledge and life values. We visit nursing homes around Florida and speak to the families as well as scrapbook with the patients to help jog their memories.
NAM: What is your biggest fear?
Michaela: I am afraid of the dark! Horror movies have caught up with me as I cannot sleep at night without a lamp on or go anywhere that is pitch black.
NAM: What is the biggest misconception about your generation?
Michaela: I believe that the media has shaped an image where my generation is apathetic and self-centered. However, my generation is exactly the opposite. We are a generation of growing leaders, and volunteers. I have met numerous people who have their own organizations and even companies that give back to the community and help the world move forward with their talents and intelligence. My generation is ambitious, strong, and giving.
NAM: Who is your role model?
Michaela: My mom is my biggest role model and real life Superwoman. As a nurse, she works 12 hours a day to provide for her family and she has sacrificed so much simply to watch her children reach their dreams. Her kind heart and soul is extraordinary and I hope that I can be half the wife, mother, and woman that she is.
NAM: If you could have dinner with anyone, who would it be?
Michaela: I would love to sit down and have dinner with Olympic gymnast, Gabby Douglas and talk about the hardships and sacrifices she endured to chase after her life dreams. Having left her family to train, I want to get insights on how she managed to stay optimistic and goal driven – two things I strive to have in my every day endeavors.
NAM: What is your favorite part about National American Miss?
Michaela: I love how National American Miss recognizes the importance of having young women to stay true to themselves. They do not promote unrealistic image goals but rather encourages them to embrace their imperfections, love what they are blessed with, and use their qualities to impact the world. The pageant highlights what today’s modern young woman is all about – goal driven, independent, but also, family-oriented and giving; the very same qualities I strive to have each day.
NAM: How did you get started with NAM? How long have you been involved?
Michaela: I received a letter in the mail inviting me to attend the state pageant and my mom jumped to the chance of being able to finally use what I learned through modeling and transfer it to pageants! However, my dad was very apprehensive because he had doubts of what pageants would bring out in me – unrealistic body image, importance of outward appearance, and the values that it represented. With this, my mom did her research on NAM and found out how life changing and positive the organization was! She actually signed me up for the pageant without my dad knowing and told him a month before the pageant to start preparing! Of course, my dad was the supportive and loving father that he was. Now, my dad is actually my “pageant coach” and embraces the positive influence and impact National American Miss has had on his two daughters and the entire family.
NAM: What is your definition of a NAM girl?
Michaela: To me, a NAM girl is the modern girl – someone who is ambitious, goal-driven, independent, but is also family oriented and giving. She knows the importance of making a positive impact in her community while balancing her life with faith, education, and fun!
NAM: What do you like to do for fun?
Michaela: I am a big computer nerd and enjoy video scrapbooking through numerous multimedia programs and soft wares! You can always find me with my laptop playing around with pictures and videos. Also, I love being spontaneous and going on adventures with my best friends and discovering the coolest places (with a camera ready in hand of course!).
NAM: What makes your state unique?
Michaela: Florida is the haven of paradise. However, we are much more than just our beautiful beaches and theme parks. Florida boasts several festivals and fiestas throughout the year celebrating different cultures such as the Filipino Festival, Greek Festival, and Puerto Rican Festival. Like the United States, Florida is a melting pot so it is admirable that we celebrate and accept different cultures, heritages, religions, and languages!
NAM: What is your favorite food?
Michaela: I do not mind getting messy with buffalo wings! It may not always be the best idea for a first date or dinner before Homecoming pictures (lesson learned), I can eat buffalo wings every day of the week.
NAM: What was your first thought you had when you captured your national title?
Michaela: “Finally” was the first and only thing that I could mutter when Joy Soprano announced me as the winner. After years of being so close to the national title, I was overwhelmed that my dreams finally met reality. Everything happened so fast and my emotions were at an all time high. I remember that my heart was so full when I looked at the audience and I could see my family, friends, and even strangers stand up and cheer. Hands down, greatest moment of my life thus far!
NAM: People would be surprised to know what about you?
Michaela: People would be surprised to find out that I can walk better in high heels than on sneakers! Also, many would not expect how clumsy I am! Having won the Casual Wear Modeling Competition since 2008 and capturing three National Casual Wear Modeling titles, many assume that I am as graceful offstage as I am onstage however I have broken my arm, leg, and ankle countless times simply from walking on the sidewalk! In fact, I already brought crutches to my college apartment in case of any future incidents!
Michaela Abelgas The 2015-2016 National American Miss