Angela Perez Baraquio
In college, Angela Perez Baraquio’s mother imparted these words of advice: “If you obey God and do his will, your life will be better than a fairy tale.”
So it was somewhat of a self-fulfilling prophecy when Baraquio became Miss America in 2001 — the first Asian American and Filipina, and the first teacher ever to win in the pageant’s then-80-year history.
To be sure, Baraquio’s life has been very much like a fairy tale. Winning Miss America earned her $100,000 in scholarships, which allowed Baraquio to achieve her dream to obtain a higher education. And this June, she will celebrate 13 years of marriage to Saint Louis grad Tini Grey, whom she first met at age 15.
And yet, there also have been periods of great challenge in Baraquio’s life — being Miss America during 9/11 and losing her brother to suicide in 2006.
“Things that people don’t necessarily equate with Miss America,” she says.
It is stories like these Baraquio details in her memoir, Amazing Win, Amazing Loss: Miss America Living Happily, Even After.
The book, which was released last September, has been in the making since Baraquio first won Miss America and co-workers began encouraging her to write a book about the experience. But she was only 24 at the time and didn’t feel ready yet.
Though she revisited the project throughout the years, it wasn’t until 2013 that Baraquio committed to completing it.
“It was a very cathartic experience,” she says.
Along with her time as Miss America, Baraquio recounts what it was like being a first-generation Filipino growing up in Hawaii as one of 10 siblings. And the last few chapters discuss her brother’s death in detail.
Ultimately, Baraquio’s book is a faith-based inspirational memoir that touches upon three very important influences in her life: faith, family and friends.
“Everybody goes through highs and lows in their life,” she says, “but what really got me through my personal struggles and triumphs was my faith, my family and my friends.
“And that’s the only reason I’m still here today to talk about it.”
These days, the mother of four who last appeared on MidWeek‘s Nov. 16, 2007, cover, is vice principal at a Catholic school in California, where she has been living since 2006. In this position, Baraquio also is able to put to use her bachelor’s degree in elementary education and master’s in educational administration.
“To be able to use my teaching credentials because of Miss America, it’s amazing,” she says.
Her ties with Hawaii remain strong, and she tries to return at least twice a year. During those visits, she films Living Local With the Baraquios with sisters Bernadette, Tess, Ceci and Rose, which airs weekly on KFVE.
“We always go back, because even though we’re here (in California), Hawaii’s always considered my home,” says Baraquio.
Amazing Win, Amazing Loss: Miss America Living Happily, Even After is available at Na Mea Hawaii Native Books and on Amazon. For more information, visit angelaperezbaraquio.com.