As a child growing up in Brentwood, Long Island, Miss New York USA, Briana Siaca could never have imagined a future as a beauty queen.
“Brentwood is made up of hustlers and people just trying to survive. You’re surrounded by violence,” Siaca told The Post of Life as a “painfully shy” young man in the middle of the MS-13 area. “I knew all about drugs and gangs by 10 o’clock. We could not play outside, there were constant cuts and shootings. There is no room to dream.”
Now the 27-year-old, who works as the operations manager for a global investment company, will compete in the Miss USA competition, which will be broadcast live on FYI on Monday at 20.00. Siaca has spent the last six years striving to win the nationwide competition and reach that point.
“It was really hard to face defeat every year,” the Long Island City resident said, noting that loss was never an option. “I knew the victory was within reach.”
Raised by a single father, a military veterinarian who worked in construction, Siaca was a boy who learned how to change a flat tire years before she knew how to apply mascara. “I did not have the positive female role model when I was growing up,” Siaca told The Post, just before she flew out to Tulsa, Oklahoma, for the big competition. “My sister became a teenage mother when she was 15 years old.”
She chose to go another way. “I decided in high school that I wanted a better life for myself,” she said. Siaca applied to Pace University to study chemistry and was accepted. Her father had to refinance his house to help pay for her tuition.
In 2015, her interest in competitions was aroused when she flipped through a school newsletter with a Miss New York USA. “I was lonely and insecure. I wanted to challenge myself with something that could help me grow, ”she said. “Something that would make me feel good and do something that would scare me.”
The preparation for her debut at the Miss New York USA pageant in 2016 was a transformation – both physically and emotionally. “When I was growing up, I was not a pretty girl,” said Siaca, noting that she was always self-conscious about her oversized glasses and frizzy hair.
“I did not really know much about makeup or hair, and I never went to the gym before competitions – it was a kind of crash course before my first competition,” she said.
But she finished second. “I had no idea what I was doing, but I think they loved that I brought a fresh energy and innocence.”
The platform changed the way she saw herself intellectually: “I never felt like I had a voice. I felt like I was suffering in silence,” she said. “I left the girl who did not speak until it was spoken to, to the girl who can not shut up. “
She was hooked on the excitement of the competition – and would continue to participate every year for six consecutive years, always placed in the top five.
Prior to her last competition in August last year – maximum age for competitors is 27 – she realized that her dream of winning might not come true. “I was OK with any result and it also changed my energy,” she said. “I thought about my community and what I could do with the title. This time I was calm.”
Then she won at the Resorts World Catskills Hotel in a sea of 160 participants. “I could not believe it. I just started crying,” she said. The newly crowned queen dedicated with tears her victory to “the little girls in Brentwood who do not think they are worthy of their dreams.”
Now she goes back to her middle and high schools to talk to the kids about building self-confidence. She also volunteers for the non-profit organization Girls Inc., which advocates for underprivileged girls. She recently hosted a “Confidence Project” where she shared insights with the kids about cultivating self-esteem. Miss New York judge Antonio Estrada was dazzled by Siaca. “She was balanced, elegant and genuine. Her story, where she comes from a single father, is so touching,” said the fashion designer. “She is one that many people can look up to – she is so inspiring.”
But behind the glamorous facade of the competition, there is rigorous work, Siaca said. She sleeps eight hours a night, with lights off at 11 a.m. and a wakeup call at 7 p.m. She arrives at the gym both before and after work with plenty of weightlifting, bench presses and squats. There is water training, mostly just reducing water intake two days before a party, a process designed to reduce water retention and help emphasize abdominal definition on stage. “It’s pretty intense. When I train for a party, no one stops me.”
And it’s not cheap either: Most participants have a team, including coaches and personal trainers, and have to buy their own dresses and jewels. “They call it ‘rich girls’ sport,” she said. “And I’m definitely not a rich girl. Every dollar I made, I put it in this. I wanted to finance myself. ” Siaca has postponed thousands for dresses and coaches. While she now has sponsors contributing to her training, including her workplace, GEM (Global Emerging Markets), Siaca admitted that preparation is a full-time job on top of her full-time job. At 5-foot-6, she has been busy practicing walking in her eight-inch heels and praying she would not fall. “This year, I found out I’m one of the shorter participants,” she said.
Despite her success, party life is not summer camp. “I’m not making friends for these competitions – girls do not want to talk to me,” Siaca said during a February 2021 podcast, “Podcast and Chill,” about the cruel process. But she respects all the participants. “These are some of the most powerful, well-rounded, dynamic women in the world.”
Big Apple beauty queens are known for being particularly fierce, making Siaca’s success over the years even more remarkable. “New York is without a doubt one of the most competitive states to win,” said the self-described “late bloomer.”
The “very single” beauty queen admitted that since her victory, more and more guys have come out of the woodwork and slipped into her DMs with cheeky – but mostly respectful – requests for a date.
“[There are] more than I would like to admit, ”she said. “[But], I respect them – it takes a lot of courage. ”
To keep her focus, she keeps dating until the party is over. It’s not the only thing she looks forward to when her tiara days are behind her. What else is on the agenda after the party? “An extra side of french fries would be fat,” she said with a laugh.
Makeup: Briana Siaca
Hair: Antonio Estrada
Styling: Estrada Twins