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Miss New Bedford photo.

Two locals crowned as the 70th Miss New Bedford and Miss New Bedford’s Teen


“On Saturday October 21st, two New Bedford women won scholarship prizes and the year of a lifetime – crowned as the next Miss New Bedford and Miss New Bedford’s Teen! A total of eighteen contestants competed across both competitions, with Emma Gendreau ultimately earning the title as Miss New Bedford and Layla Rej Johnson as Miss New Bedford’s Teen.

This year marked the 70th anniversary for the Miss New Bedford scholarship organization. Since the program’s inception in 1954, more than $200,000 in college scholarships have been awarded to area women, with an additional $10,000 being awarded at the recent competitions. As the winner, Gendreau earned a $5,000 scholarship, plus additional monies as the recipient of the Be a Light Scholarship and the Evening Wear Award. Johnson received a $500 scholarship plus additional scholarship monies as the Interview Award winner.

Miss New Bedford photo.

Gendreau, a 20-year-old graduate of New Bedford High School, is currently attending Bridgewater State University to pursue degrees in Severe Disabilities and Political Science. For the talent phase of competition, Gendreau performed a spoken word poem dedicated to her twin sister and their family’s struggles navigating her sister’s cognitive disability in the school system. Gendreau’s year of service will be dedicated to special needs advocacy as well as family and caregiver support.

Johnson is a 15-year-old sophomore attending Greater New Bedford Regional Vocational Technical High School studying Nurse Assisting/Health Assisting. Her talent was a self-choreographed musical theatre and tap performance. Throughout the coming year, Johnson will promote her community service initiative titled, “It’s Ok to Not Be Ok: Ending the Mental Health Stigma.” Johnson is the 13th young woman to earn the Miss New Bedford’s Teen title – a program added by organizers in 2011.

Miss New Bedford photo.

Both competitions were filled with celebration, special guests, and even a few surprises to honor the program’s 70th anniversary. Among the sixty nine women to have held the title, a total of twenty six former Miss New Bedfords were present – with the earliest being Miss New Bedford 1959, Lynne Green. During the show’s opening number, outgoing Miss New Bedford Tori Kalisz (also the daughter of Miss New Bedford 1986 Marlene Kalisz) wore a gown depicting black and white photographs of every woman to have ever held the title.

In addition to their local impact and community service initiatives, both Gendreau and Johnson will represent New Bedford and compete in the state competitions. Currently, the Miss New Bedford program is the longest running local preliminary to Miss America in the state of Massachusetts. Each young woman will also benefit from numerous sponsor gifts throughout the year including healthy meals, fitness support, hair and beauty services, wardrobe allowances, and more.”

Miss New Bedford photo.

About Michael Silvia

Served 20 years in the United States Air Force. Owner of New Bedford Guide.

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