Even though they’re still very young, Jessy Passantino and her sister Destiny have always been very competitive.
“They both have a lot of trophies,” their father Rob Passantino said. “Sometimes they compete against each other; sometimes they work together. Destiny likes being an artist.”
Jessy is 7 years old, Destiny is 8. As sisters, they are a lot like Venus and Serena Williams, the international tennis champions. They are often rivals when competing against each other, and other times very supportive of each other.
They most recently competed for the state championship in the National American Miss Pageant
at the Hyatt in New Brunswick on Aug. 14 and 15.
And like the tennis stars, it was Jessy, the younger of the two, who won the state title, allowing her to advance to the national competition in Anaheim, Calif. in November, where she will vie for the national title for her age group.
Jessy competed against 75 contestants and won the overall award for modeling and talent. She also won the title of New Jersey American Miss Princess and will serve as the state champion for the next year, doing charity work.
Jessy will now go to Los Angeles the week of Thanksgiving to represent New Jersey in her age division. She will compete against young ladies from every other state in all three of her winning categories and for the title of National American Miss.
“It’s not about winning, it’s about having fun and doing my best.” – Jessy Passantino
But she said that she knows her family is going to be very proud of her whether she wins or not.
“It’s not about winning, it’s about having fun and doing my best,” she said. “I am very excited to go to California and represent New Jersey.”
Both girls go to school in Jersey City Heights
Both girls currently live in Jersey City Heights where they attend school together. They study dance in North Bergen.
When Jessy is not competing in pageants she is a full time student at PS-27 Alfred Zampella School in Jersey City where she began the second grade this month.
In her spare time, she is a full time student at My Passion Dance Studio in North Bergen, where she takes Ballet, Flamenco, Jazz, Acro & Contemporary Dance. She is also a member of the Girl Scouts.
“Both of my daughters attend My Passion Dance Studio,” said Rob Passantino. Originally residents of Bayonne, the family has relocated to North Bergen, and then to Jersey City.
The girls’ grandparents, Robert and Marie, still live in Bayonne, and will be cheering Jessy on from their home on 26th Street and Avenue E.
“They’ve been at the dance school for a couple of years,” Passantino said. “The dance school held a casting call for this pageant. This isn’t really a beauty pageant. The girls do not wear makeup and things like that. This is largely based on talent.”
He said the girls were interviewed by a panel of judges and based on this, advanced to the state level.
“Destiny got the call first,” Passantino said.
The girls competed in talent, model and dance. Each category requires an entrance fee.
“Dance is optional, modeling is extra,” he said, noting that he had to get sponsors to cover the cost.
A real thrill
Passantino said he was thrilled to dress up in a suit to walk his daughter out in formal wear, part of the state competition.
But Jessy had to present herself to the panel of judges, telling them her name, and the city where she lives.
“She told the judges she wanted to become a scientist so she could help find a cure for cancer,” Passantino said.
As their father, Passantino did everything he could to help prepare his daughters to meet the ten-judge panel. A human resources specialist for a national hotel company, Passantino tried to instill his daughters with confidence.
“I interviewed them and tried to teach them out to sit, how to make eye contact and how to answer correctly,” he said.
Jessy, of course, prevailed. This became a very emotional moment for them all, something he said he didn’t quite believe when it occurred.
“We screamed, she was crying. It felt really good,” he said.
Not all fun and games
Jessy will have local duties as the New Jersey winner, including toy drives and other charity work.
“We were foster parents years ago,” Passantino said. “I told her that she can use this title to do some good.”
In preparation for her national competition Jessy will be doing charity work at Clara Maus Medical Center in Essex County in October.
“But she will likely do charity work even after that,” Passantino said.
While Jessy’s sister Destiny didn’t win, she did place in the top five in the state.
The trip to California will consist of more than just a competition. They will go to Disneyland, and Hollywood, as well as attending the NAM banquet.
“Since my sister Destiny cannot fly, my family and I are taking the long road trip to the Nationals. Anaheim here we come,” Jessy said.
Passantino is searching for sponsors to cover the cost of the trip, and has set up a Gofundme site, as well as approaching local businesses, big and small. He even plans to approach state Sen. Brian Stack and Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop.
For those interested in sponsoring the girls, go to: http://www.gofundme.com/Jessy-scompetition
Al Sullivan may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.