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Newport High grad wins Miss Washington Teen USA title

Starla Sampaco - Jerry and Lois Photography
Starla Sampaco
— image credit: Jerry and Lois Photography

Miss Washington Teen USA held its 2014 pageant Friday and Saturday, and the winner is a former Newport High School student.

It was the third stab at the title for Starla Sampaco, now a freshman at the University of Washington. She came in as first runner-up in the 2013 competition.

"It took a second for it to settle in," Sampaco said Monday. "And I think it still hasn't quite hit me yet that I won. I've tried out for this job so many times."

Before her first attempt, with Miss Washington Teen 2012, Sampaco had thought about competing in pageants for several years. But her parents never pushed her into pageantry as a young girl and she "wanted to wait for the right time," she said.

When the right time came, Sampaco was editor of the Newport student newspaper, the Knightlife. She already had a passion for news, inspired by former CNN correspondent and anchor Rudi Bakhtiar, the first Iranian-American journalist to anchor a prime time news hour in the states.

"It all started when I was in third grade," Sampaco said. "I would go home and, instead of watching the Disney Channel, I would turn on CNN and watch the news. I especially enjoyed watching Rudi Bakhtiar. I was amazed at how she could communicate with others, both on and off television."

Sampaco later became one of the first hosts of "What's Good, 206?," an online news show produced by high school and college students with an emphasis on social justice. She is now a senior host and an officer of the production's club on the UW Seattle campus.

Sampaco aspires to a career in broadcast journalism, a field where she can inform and become a role model to others, she said.

"I wanted to win Miss Washington Teen USA because having a title like that turns you into a public figure," she said. "And being that public figure gives me the visibility to (be) a role model to younger girls.

"I'm Filipino-American and, even when I was growing up, the ‘beautiful’ female role models were almost all tall, blonde, blue-eyed women… So I want to use this new role as an opportunity to talk to girls, especially girls of color like myself, and help them understand being different does not mean you're defective."

Sampaco will go on to compete in Miss Teen USA in late summer 2014, at a date to be determined.

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