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Miss Pennsylvania makes Top 20, spotlights serious issue

REUTERS
Miss Pennsylvania Valerie Gatto poses during the 2014 Miss USA beauty pageant in Baton Rouge, Louisiana June 8, 2014. Fifty-one state titleholders compete in the swimsuit, evening gown and interview categories for the title of Miss USA 2014 during the 63rd annual Miss USA competition.

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Monday, June 9, 2014, 12:01 a.m.
 

The Top 20 was as close at Valerie Gatto, a 2007 North Hills High School graduate, would come to the Miss USA crown.

Gatto, a Cranberry resident competing as Miss Pennsylvania, advanced to the Top 20 out of the 51 contestants Sunday night at the Miss USA pageant in Baton Rouge, La. She was the second-to-last semifinalist to be named.

After modeling in swimsuits, the Top 10 were announced, but Gatto wasn't among those who moved on to the evening gown competition.

Her story was a part of the show, however. Announcers continually referred to Gatto as a woman overcoming the odds. Celebrity hosts Giuliana Rancic mentioned Gatto's story early on in the show when talking about some of the amazing stories of the women vying for the crown. Gatto's mother was sexually assaulted at knifepoint when she was young, and from that experience became pregnant with Gatto.

Gatto wanted to win the title to continue to share her story and spotlight a serious issue. A big part of Miss USA is that she reaches out to charities. Gatto has been doing that through her website, www.valeriegatto.com, and through speaking engagements.

“People are stunned,” she previously told the Tribune-Review. “They ask to give me a hug and are emotional. It gives them hope.”

The crown went to Miss Nevada Nia Sanchez

JoAnne Klimovich Harrop is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.

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