PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Former KDKA intern and Pittsburgh local, Elena LaQuatra will represent Pennsylvania in the Miss USA pageant Sunday night, June 5th in Las Vegas. While she is mostly known for her beauty, people can’t see the cochlear implant behind her ear because she is deaf.
“I was a very rambunctious little girl. I loved performing on stage and dancing and singing, in musical theatre, and this is when I was two, three and four. I was meant for the stage, my parents knew it,” LaQuatra says.
But when she was four, Elena lost her hearing in both ears after contracting meningitis. For nine months she could hear nothing.
“In that time period I did lose my speech; I sounded like I was deaf; I was mumbling. I also lost my balance from meningitis,” LaQuatra said.
At four years old, Elena became one of the first people in Pittsburgh to have the cochlear implant surgically placed in her left ear. She attended De Paul School for Hearing and Speech, now in Shadyside, one of only fifty like it in the country.
Elena learned to speak again through music, activities and academics. Her teachers remember her fondly and it wasn’t long before she was back performing on the stage with her big sister and at mainstream elementary school in Mount Lebanon, where she later graduated from high school.
Now, twenty years after her surgery, Elena only has trouble hearing in noisy rooms, where she then resorts to lip reading. She first became inspired to enter a pageant by Heather Whitestone, the first deaf woman to win Miss America in 1995.
“I met her at this event and told I’d love to be Miss America someday, I think pageants are so cool and she told me the Miss America organization was starting a teen program and that I should look into it when I was old enough. By 14, I entered my first pageant,” LaQuatra said.
Elena later won the state title and came in second, runner up nationally in the, “Miss America’s Outstanding Teen” pageant.
She then took a break from pageants and pursued her education earning a degree in broadcast journalism from Point Park University. While interning at KDKA, Elena proved to be a hard worker and her enthusiasm and genuine love of people shined through the camera lens.
“I really like to make people laugh,” LaQutra says. Elena’s infectious smile brightens a room. She now brightens the lives of people all over the state, as Miss Pennsylvania traveling to promote the pageant and charities, inspiring others along the way.
You can help vote Elena into the top 15 by voting here. Or you can get the miss USA app and vote that way. One contestant will make it to the top 15 from votes alone.
Former KDKA Intern Representing Pa. In Miss USA Pageant
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