EDWARDSVILLE — A Wilkes-Barre Area School District teacher will compete tonight for the crown in a pageant that could help her promote a cause close to her heart.
Elise Mosca, a first-grade teacher at Dodson Elementary School and the reigning Miss Philadelphia International, will be competing at the Jaffa Shrine Center in Altoona for the title “Miss Pennsylvania International.”
The winner of the state competition will then vie for the crown of “Miss International” in Chicago on July 26 and 27.
“It’s all about volunteerism,” Mosca, 27, said of the Miss International pageant as she was being fitted for an evening gown Thursday at Prom Excitement at the Gateway Shopping Center. “Volunteerism is our talent.”
The pageant is limited to women between ages 19 and 29. Competitors are judged on an interview (comprising 40 percent of their overall scores), and evening gown, fitness wear and fun fashion phases (each comprising 20 percent).
During the interview, each contestant spends five minutes in private with each of the five judges. Then, onstage, contestants are given 30 seconds to deliver a statement about their platform or cause and another 30 seconds to answer a platform-related question.
Mosca’s platform/cause is raising awareness about skin cancer. Her mother, Tina Mosca, died April 30, 2012 of Stage 4 melanoma cancer.
Early detection is the key, Mosca said. Her mother went to three foot doctors when she became concerned about a mark on her toe. They all told her it was nothing. But at Elise’s urging, her mother went to a fourth podiatrist who did a biopsy and diagnosed her melanoma.
Even with aggressive chemotherapy and radiation treatments and countless trips to hospitals, the cancer spread to Tina Mosca’s liver and, eventually, her brain. Elise Mosca’s biggest fan was in the emergency room, unable to speak, the day she returned home from the Miss Italia pageant in Italy in July 2011. Her mother succumbed to the disease nine months later.
Elise Mosca, of Forty Fort, put pageant competitions on hold as she visited her mother in hospitals and nursing homes and later mourned her passing.
“Now, my mom, she’s my angel. I believe she said, ‘Go ahead, do something for you,’” said Mosca. “So, I was like, OK, here we go, starting anew. So I’m excited.”
Kathy Nardone, owner of Prom Excitement, is sponsoring Mosca by providing three outfits for the competition.
“When I was doing pageants, the Lions Club and Jaycees would sponsor me and a lot of area businesses, so now, it’s my turn to give back to girls who are competing in pageants and help them in any way I can,” said Nardone, a former Miss Tri-State and first runner-up to Miss World.
Nardone has sections in her store dedicated to prom dresses, party dresses and a new section dedicated to pageants. She said every pageant has its own criteria for various types of dresses and gowns, such as the hem and other measurements.
“For girls interested in beauty pageants, we’re going to help them with that, their walking, their interviews. … There aren’t a lot of places around here that do that,” Nardone said.
Mosca began with local pageants, too. She first competed in a pageant her senior year in high school when she won the title Miss UNICO. “That gave me the confidence to keep going,” she said.
Although the last few years have been difficult, Mosca continues to look at the positives in life and hopes she will be able to make appearances and promote her cause if she wins pageants such as Miss International.
“The silver lining to my experience is that my mom is now watching over me and blessing me with extreme opportunity,” said Mosca. “To be able to help other families is incredible. I know she was very proud and, even though I’m missing her every day, I have that silver lining to be able to help other people.”