Performing has always been a part of 16-year-old Madeline Capaldi’s life, be it on a tennis court, a music venue, or her own living room. But recently, she performed on a new stage during the Miss Rhode Island Teen USA pageant, where she won second runner-up.
Capaldi’s sister, Kayla, nominated her to take part. After a round of applying and interviewing, she was chosen to compete.
“I was really nervous, but once I got there it wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be,” she said. “Everyone there is nice and I feel like I’ve known them all forever.”
The hardest thing, she said, was getting sponsorships. Capaldi had to assemble a résumé and approach local businesses to ask for their support. She managed to get businesses including Bill McGrath’s Music Series, Balise Toyota, and the Law Offices of Ronald Resmini on board as well as receiving private donations from family and friends.
“I think that was the best thing she got out of it,” said her mom JoAnn. “She was able to go up to people and come out of her shell a bit.”
Though she was nervous, Capaldi didn’t have trouble coming out of her shell during the pageant itself. The first of her three-day pageant weekend involved just an interview, which went smoother than she thought it might. She thought she had over-prepared, as the interview about her hobbies and favorite causes to support was only three minutes long.
The other two days were significantly longer – she and her fellow competitors put in 10-hour days before the pageant began.
“I felt like I was there for three weeks and not three days,” she joked.
Despite the hours that could have caused great amounts of stress, Capaldi said the weekend was nothing like how pageants are usually portrayed.
“I was totally not a ‘pageant girl.’ I’m not a girly girl. I’m a super tomboy. It was rare for me to do this and I wasn’t expecting it to be the way it was. You think it will be all these girls judging like in the TV shows. Every time I tell someone I did it they go ‘oh, is it like Toddlers and Tiaras?’ But it’s nothing like that. It’s kind of like being in a Hollywood production,” she said. “You become friends with everybody there and everybody wants the other girls to win because they’re all so nice. For most of us, it was our first time ever doing a pageant, so it wasn’t like everyone was there to win. We were there to make friends and have the experience.”
Since it was her first pageant, the Capaldis were surprised she made it as far as she did – JoAnn said they were hoping to make it to the top 12 “just to get a feel and learn” about what pageants were like. They were in shock when she advanced further and actually were a little fearful of her winning. Capaldi is an honor student at Toll Gate, a tennis player, a singer and pianist, so her family worried the winner’s schedule and required public appearances would interfere with her activities.
“We were thinking, ‘Oh my god, we weren’t prepared for this, what if she won?’” JoAnn said. “She’s doing well in school, she’s got tennis and piano and singing. This would change everything. The closer she got, the more scared I got.”
Capaldi performed impressively and took second runner-up, much to her and her family’s relief. But even better, she said, were the new friendships she made with the other competitors from across the state. She still talks with some of them and is hoping to reunite with them soon. Her mother liked the sense of camaraderie in addition to the fact the pageant focused more on confidence and personality than appearances.
“She’s still my little girl. She has a little bit of attitude, but not that bad,” she joked.
Capaldi is a junior at Toll Gate, so has begun to seriously think about her future – she isn’t entirely sure what she wants to do yet, but thinks she’d like to major in communications and minor in music performance. She and her mother will begin looking at schools this year, and Capaldi said she might prefer the places with a little distance.
“Maybe near Rhode Island, but a long enough drive that [my parents] can’t visit me every weekend,” she said with a laugh.
As for the pageant life, Capaldi said she’s interested in trying again next year since she’ll know what to expect. Her dad Steve is just as proud of her as her mother and enjoyed her answer to one of the final questions she was asked.
“In the top 5, they were asked to pick a question from a fishbowl to be asked in front of approximately 2,000 people,” he said. “Her question was, ‘what do you think that you will take away from this whole competition?’ She answered that to her it wasn’t a competition, that it was all the differences all the girls possessed that made it so memorable and much fun. To my wife and I, it was a great answer.”