Gloria Nelson was not in the habit of joining every pageant, but when it came to the Miss Earth Guam pageant, there was no doubt that the contest was hers for the taking. Sure, she wowed the judges with her elegance, poise, and confidence, but the reason Gloria was truly meant to wear the crown went beyond her sparking evening gown or native costume. In fact, the reason could be found in the heart of who Gloria is, a young woman passionate about the beauty of the place she calls home. Undoubtedly she was destined to be Miss Earth Guam.
What inspired you to join the Miss Earth Guam contest?
"In all honesty, I wasn’t fully aware of all the different pageants hosted on Guam. My sister asked me if I wanted to join Miss Earth Guam. I was, of course, very hesitant. She told me that we’d meet with the directors, and then I can decide from there. It was an extremely spontaneous decision for me. The meeting was out of the blue, and naturally I just rushed to get there with my sister. I showed up to the meeting without makeup, and my hair was a mess! (Might I add, this is one of the worst things to do when you're meeting people for a "beauty pageant!") We sat down and I listened to [the directors] Josh and Frank. How they spoke about the purpose of this specific pageant immediately drew me in. The thought of being a beauty queen with the purpose of helping heal our environment hooked me. I mean, being able to get down and dirty one day, and then [attending] events the next—I'm sold!"
Was pageant life always in the cards for you?
"Pageant life was definitely not always part of my plan. My parents and grandparents always urged me to [finish] school, so putting college to the side was a very big decision. It also caused a lot of stress. I would constantly think of how a lot of my friends are pursuing their degrees, [while] I am putting my education on hold for something extremely risky and new to me."
Was joining the Miss Earth Guam pageant worth the risk?
"Yes, it was definitely worth the risk. I wouldn’t trade my experience for anything. It allowed me to grow and mature a lot faster, to travel more, to break out of my shell, to represent something I am passionate about, and to lend a hand in the process. Although I was missing out in school, I gained a lot of knowledge on different things, whether it was [about] our earth, the island problems we have…the list is never-ending."
We’re glad things worked out for you! Did you expect to win the crown?
"In all honesty, I hoped and prayed that I would, because nothing in life is certain. Throughout the entire local competition, our directors constantly told us that this was their best batch yet. Our group was filled with gorgeous women and a vast amount of personalities. The even greater challenge was that each and every one of us was determined to win the crown. There was so much perseverance. I constantly ate healthy, worked out when I was able to, learned how to apply make up, and fixed my appearance. It was difficult for me at first. I guess you could say I'm a shy person. But it did not stop me from doing my best. Hard work definitely pays off."
One of the things that made you stand out during the competition was the video project where you paid homage to the Inifresi. Tell us a little about that.
"I wanted to do something different. I wanted to do something that represented who I am and how I was raised. Me, my sister, and her friend videographer Brian Muna brainstormed for a while, and the Inifresi came in to the discussion. Instantly, we knew we found what we wanted, and we knew exactly where we wanted to shoot the video. We went to our family property in Sasayan before the sun rose. The water was too rough so we stayed on the cliffside to film. It was beautiful like it always is. We spent our morning with crashing waves and salt spray. We constantly recorded the audio, ensuring that it was perfect. They told me that we had to transfer the meaning onto the video. I think we did just that. I closed my eyes and said the Inifresi thinking about each line and what it meant. We finished and waited for Brian to work his magic. When he sent me the rough draft of the video [and watched it] I immediately got goosebumps. I didn't think that it would come out that great. It was definitely a memorable experience and one that I will never forget. Our people owe a great amount of gratitude to [the late] Dr. Bernadita Camacho Dungca for writing this beautiful pledge for us. "
The Inifresi was a great choice. Do you think it described the way you feel about Guam and its land, ocean, and elements?
"Respect for our land and its elements are definitely something I was raised with. When I was younger, we would either visit my grandparents or go down to the ranch on weekends. I would rarely stay [indoors] at either place. There was always some adventure I would want go on with my cousins. My grandma’s house had a beautiful view of the ocean and our ranch in the valley. I remember constantly trying to find a way down the mountain to make it to the caves below. I was surrounded by the outdoors, with what seemed like never-ending land to explore."
"When I would go down to the ranch, my dad would make us do so many things. I always dreaded going because I knew going meant work…He would clear land and bring seedlings of different types of plants. We would spend the weekend constantly planting. One time he cleared the Cliffside, and we ended up planting hundreds of coconut and gågu trees. All I ever wanted to do was go down to the cliff and swim or fish. Instead we were always planting and only being able to enjoy the beautiful ocean from a couple hundred feet away."
"Looking back at all the hard work my father put in and all that he made us do, I’m extremely grateful. I wouldn't trade the way I was raised for the world…There's just something about planting seedlings under the hot sun and being able to string a hammock up and enjoy the sea breeze under the same plant's shade years later. Hard work is a very beautiful thing. It may not seem all that great in the beginning, but looking back, it is one of the most valuable things a person can do."
Sounds like you spent a lot of time outdoors growing up.
"I definitely spent more time outdoors, that's for sure. My favorite sport is soccer, so I would constantly be outside for games and practices. I would [also] spend time down at the beach or on my family's property. I've always enjoyed anything that pertained to the outdoors, most especially hiking. It is a great stress reliever for me. Not too long ago, I met a couple of other people who go hiking often, and it allowed me to go more often too. It's amazing meeting new people that appreciate and enjoy our island's beauty just as much, if not more, than I do. I have gained much more respect for our island by physically going out and exploring it. There’s nothing like seeing its beauty first hand."
Anything else you’d like to add?
"I just want to end with this: There are many people in our sister islands that are experiencing the first-hand effects of climate change. They are the ones with the smallest carbon footprint. Why are the ones who do the least damage suffering? They have had to leave their islands, their homes. They had to take their families to different countries and adapt to different cultures. They have had to leave all they know to become climate change refugees. Realize that we do not want this for our future generations. We do not want this for any human being. We want them to have a place to call home and a culture to call their own."
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