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Ventriloquist from Rockwall vies for Miss America

Laryssa Bonacquisti with her favorite puppet, Waddles. Photo by Hannah Baldwin/The News-Star.

(ROCKWALL, TX – July 28, 2017) Rockwall native Laryssa Bonacquisti is used to taking the stage as a long-time ventriloquist. But this September, the whole country will be her audience as she competes for the crown in Miss America 2017.

Bonacquisti’s first introduction to the Miss America Organization was through her mother Lynette, who won Miss New Jersey in 1990. Bonacquisti said that while she was never “paraded around as a child in full makeup and fake hair,” she did learn to respect the strength and character of the competitors.

“My mom would take me to competitions to watch,” Bonacquisti said. “As I grew up, I looked up to the women who walked across the stage and dreamed of the day when I too could compete for the coveted crown of Miss America.”

After graduating from high school, Bonacquisti had an opportunity to take the first step toward that goal. Since she attends Louisiana State University as a Mass Communication student, Bonacquisti competed in Miss Louisiana 2017 in June and won. She utilized her skills as a ventriloquist for both her performance talent and her vessel for inspiring children.

“Ventriloquism is an art that appeals to people of all ages,” she said. “The best part about being a ventriloquist is watching the faces of both children and adults when my “friends” talk. It also gives me a unique perspective on the gifts others possess. When I speak to schools, I point out that every single individual is blessed with a gift unique to them. I encourage them to find their gift, begin to set goals for themselves, and most importantly, avoid any negativity about your ability to achieve those goals.”

The best part about being a ventriloquist is watching the faces of both children and adults when my ‘friends’ talk.

Bonacquisti started a sock puppet craft project for children called Believe Buddies that encourages them to harness their passion and believe in themselves.

“These are meant to remind them that they can achieve anything they set their minds to,” Bonacquisti said. “After the children make their sock puppets, I encourage them to write either a goal or an encouraging word on the ankle portion of the sock so they are always reminded when they look at the puppet to look toward their futures rather than focusing on difficulties along the way.”

That same attitude empowers Bonacquisti as the Miss America pageant approaches on September 10. Though Louisiana has never won the crown before, Bonacquisti has high hopes that she can make her new state proud.

“The fact that I get to compete at Miss America is beyond my wildest imagination,” Bonacquisti said. “To be able to spend a week with young women from across America, each one as talented, beautiful and intelligent as the next, is going to be wonderful. Winning Miss America is always the goal, and something this great comes with hard work.”

Although her heart is full of thankfulness to represent Louisiana this year, she also fully recognizes what a responsibility it is.

“Words do not do the feeling justice,” Bonacquisti said. “The moment the crown is placed upon your head there are feelings of extreme bliss, but it also comes with a huge responsibility. This title is not about the sparkly crown. The crown is a tool. It opens doors, but I must walk through them to make the difference. This year will be the best of my life, and my goal is to return to Miss Louisiana next year having left the title even sparklier than when I received it.”

Laryssa’s father Dr. Gary Bonacquisti, who serves as the Chief Medical Officer at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Rockwall, said he is overjoyed to see his daughter embodying so many positive character traits represented by Miss America and following her dream.

“I could not be more proud of Laryssa,” Gary Bonacquisti said. “This accomplishment is a goal she has worked very hard to achieve.  The Miss America system represents many of the attributes that Laryssa strives for; Academic achievement, talent development, and community service.  As a parent, nothing brings more joy then watching your children achieve their dreams.”

For those who wish to tune in and root for one of Rockwall’s own, Miss America 2018 will air on ABC at 8 p.m. Central on Sunday, September 10.

By Julie Anne White, Blue Ribbon News.

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