Valerie Gatto is a Miss USA hopeful. The beauty queen and Miss Pennsylvania USA titleholder is courageously sharing her story, summed up in her words as a “product of rape,” as part of her commitment to educate women on sexual assault.
The story of the 24-year-old Miss Pennsylvania USA — whose mother was 19 years old when she was raped and chose to keep her– has gone viral. While beauty queens make news for flubbing interview questions, for having nude photos and porn videos surface, to say nothing of arrests, has made news for her powerful and courageous life story and mission to help victims of sexual assault.
Valerie Gatto spoke out in an interview on the Today Show, which gave her powerful message a much larger audience. She spoke about the importance of women being more aware of the potential dangers. Her own mother was grabbed by a man on a Pittsburgh street and raped at knife point.
Gatto said, “Unfortunately, we have to be aware of these crimes. I hope to show others how to be proactive, what to do, to be present, to be aware of your surroundings, little things like that … I’m educating women about a topic that’s so serious, but it’s so awesome to see their responses. They say it changes their life.”
Of her own upbringing and how it is that she has made it so far in the pageant system, she said, “I haven’t just been preparing for Miss USA for five months. It’s been my entire life.”
She went on to say, “Being a child of a rape, not knowing who my father is, not knowing if he’s ever been found, most people would think it’s such a negative situation. I grew up with my mom and my grandparents. They never looked at it as something negative. I have a loving, supportive family who told me I could be the president of the United States.”
She went on to speak of what it is like for her to be an advocate. She said, “Being a voice is life-changing, and I just want to keep going. I’m not sharing this story for publicity. I’m not doing this for any selfish reasons. I truly am doing this to change the world and make a difference.”
As for the pageant, she said, “Losing is not an option. In my mind, I believe that I’m already Miss USA.”
There’s no mystery when it comes to the Valerie Gatto biography as she shares it in detail on her official Web site, valeriegatto.com. There is a particularly powerful paragraph preceding the particulars of her education and professional life — she is a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh and has had employment as a brand ambassador, a model, an actress and a marketing consultant. (And, of course, as is typical and expected for beauty queens, particulars of height and measurements are easily found online; she is 5’5″ tall, according to accounts.)
While those are the details we expect to find, we also find under the sub-header “Don’t let your circumstances define you” that she spells out the details of her upbringing, raised by her mother and her grandparents and how she came to find out why her father was absent from her life. Later, she speaks of her philanthropic efforts and of, in her words, her commitment to help others “defy the odds and achieve their dreams.”
Valerie Gatto is active on Twitter where she has shared many photos and videos. She is Miss Pennsylvania USA for now with a powerful and inspirational life story and mission, and who knows what the future may hold. You can see a full gallery of pictures below as well as video.
Photos: Valerie Gatto
(Click twice to enlarge)
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