Friday, June 3, 2011


"The results are in and the winner is"..... This is the traditional phrase that ends most beauty pageants, and yesterday's MS NEW JERSEY SENIOR AMERICA PAGEANT 2011 was no different. After a 3 hour long battle for the crown, Desiree Nigrelli, a resident of Atlantic City, emerged triumphant as this year's Queen. She convinced a panel of judges and a discerning audience that she is "the gracious lady who best exemplifies the dignity and inner beauty of all senior Americans."

This beauty is more than just "skin deep," as is revealed in the following Q & A interview with Desiree, earlier today.

JA: How did you hear about the MS NEW JERSEY SENIOR AMERICA PAGEANT?

DN: My daughter did some searching on the internet and found the national website. She
called the office and was given the name, etc. of Johanne Santori, MSNJSA State Pageant
Director, to contact.

JA: Why did your daughter do this for you?

DN: I shared my life in show business with my daughter, so she knows of my background.
I haven't sung or performed in 20 years, and so she wanted me to revive my talent, and
to get involved in performing again in some way. So, when she learned about the
MS NEW JERSEY SENIOR AMERICA PAGEANT organization, she urged me to enter.

JA: That's interesting. Would you like to share with me your background?

DN: Sure. I am a classically trained ballet dancer, and I performed as prima ballerina and eventually taught ballet. Besides singing, I also play piano and guitar. In Atlantic City's heyday,
I sang in shows at the famous Steele Pier, and I have memories of singing in shows with
great stars like Tony Bennett and comedian, Red Buttons.

JA: Do you have any other special memories when you performed at the Steele Pier?

DN: Yes I do! At the tender age of 15, I was a performer in the famous show, "Stars of Tomorrow". The owner of the Steele Pier approached Tony Grant, the show's host, and requested me as a replacement for Jimmy Rogers, who was to perform in the main theater. He was unable to perform that evening, due to a family emergency, and the owner felt that I possessed the stage presence and talent to replace him.

JA: What other hobbies or talents do you have?

DN: I am trained in the discipline of dressage .... an equestrian sport, where you dress up in a tuxedo jacket, white pants, black hat, and tall riding boots. I've won several ribbons and trophies. Also, my husband Martin and I had a horse ranch built for us in Pittsgrove, New Jersey, where we raised champion horses.

JA: Besides your life in show business, did you have another occupation?

DN: Yes. I was a model, Director of Public Relations for the John Robert Powers Modeling Agency, and served as CEO of a real estate investment company in New Jersey.

JA: How has life been for you since retirement?

DN: It's been exciting and fulfilling. Martin and I bought a beautiful, but old house in Atlantic
City, and we are restoring it, hopefully to its former glory. Also, I am in the process of writing 2 books: the first one is, "Hoofprints On My Heart," which is about my love of horses; and the second one is, "Between the Lines." The title doesn't really tell what the book is about, so let me subtitle it for you: "Zing Went The Strings Of My Heart." Does that help a little? No? Well it's about life in Atlantic City, back in the day!

JA: OH! I'm glad you explained the latter book, because I didn't get it until the end! Did you enjoy yourself yesterday? Did the pageant meet your expectations? Please share your feelings.

DN: It was exciting and memorable. Everyone backstage connected with MS NEW JERSEY SENIOR AMERICA PAGEANT was helpful and kept us moving. It was an exhilarating experience for me, filled with pleasant memories that will last me for a long time to come. Martin, my husband of 45 years, is my staunchest fan, and he is so proud of my winning the title, as well as my daughter and 2 grandchildren.

JA: I forgot to ask you, you entered the pageant as a singer. What song did you sing?

DN: I sang that classic favorite, "CRAZY."

JA: I know that it is very hard to recite one's Philosophy of Life in 35 seconds, and say how
you really feel. Well, now's the time you may expand it a bit, or express your thoughts, if you wish.

DN: That's true. It was very hard to express my feelings in 35 seconds. Thanks, I would
love to. I think that whatever defines you controls you. With me it is my faith in God
that keeps me morally and compassionately motivated. Also, we sometimes rely entirely on the "now generation". We must remember the best informed person is not necessarily the wisest. Indeed there is a danger that preciously in the multiplicity of their knowledge they will lose sight of what is essential which you learn through age. I am hoping to promote my platform through my title as MS NEW JERSEY SENIOR AMERICA 2011, and project hope and confidence, and keep alive the interest in the growing population of senior Americans.

JA: Those are quite profound thoughts, and you expressed them most eloquently. You will
have a very busy year ahead as our new Queen, and also to prepare yourself for the national
pageant this coming in October. I believe that you will do an excellent job in promoting the
positive aspects of aging. Good Luck!

DN: Thank you so much!

Reporter: Josephine Araniti, MSNJSA2007/Publicity

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