By DUSTIN RACIOPPI
Quaniesha Frost, a slender and soft-spoken 23-year-old, has big goals, none of which can be achieved through anything short of intense hard work and a little bit of luck.
She wants to save, and eventually enhance, school music programs. She wants to open performing arts schools around the country. She wants to perform on Broadway. She wants to be Miss America, perhaps the goal most within reach for the Red Bank native.
In June, Frost, otherwise known as Miss Tri-County, will vie for the crown of Miss New Jersey, the penultimate pageant to the coveted national title.
It’s a dream that was sparked when she was 19, while watching the Miss America Pageant.
“I was like, I could totally do this,” said Frost, who’s been a singer, musician and performer since she was a young girl.
She got in touch with the director of the Miss New Jersey pageant, sent along her info and got started in competitions. After close races her first three years, Frost won the Tri-County competition last month, which put her among more than a dozen young women who will head to Ocean City this summer to try and win the state title.
“It still feels unusual, like I could possibly achieve my dream,” Frost said. “When I think about it, it still brings tears to my eyes.”
The work to get to this level has been enormous, she said. A student at Montclair State University and part-time employee at Red Bank Regional, Frost spends most of her off-time networking, raising money, promoting her platform Save The Music and practicing for pageants, which, in themselves can be mentally and physically draining, she said.
“It’s a lot of preparation,” she said. “And it’s even more for Miss New Jersey.”
Frost, who will graduate in May, is no stranger to the challenges of balancing a daunting workload.
The oldest of four children raised by a single mother on Red Bank’s West Side, Frost has spent her life playing caretaker, student, worker. Having to make dinner for siblings, handle chores and stay on top of school work can tend to steal away personal goals, but Frost said it’s only prepared her for the future.
“I’ve always been the one that my siblings look up to. I’ve had to be in the ‘play mom’ situations. That’s the main preparation, to me, to be a role model,” she said. “It was tough but we all pulled through and are definitely excelling in what we want to do in life.”
What she wants to do, really, has nothing to do with the glamor of a jeweled crown or a spot on a Broadway playbill, Frost said. Just as she was inspired by watching the Miss America pageant four years ago, Frost simply wants to be on the other side, offering a glint of hope to somebody who may watch her one day.
“Never in a million years I would have thought that this little girl with a single mother would have the chance to be Miss New Jersey, and that could be such an inspiration to kids all over,” Frost said. “I think being an inspiration to them would be the greatest gift I could get.”