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Meet the ‘strong’ Miss New York USA queens finally vying for 2021 crown

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Did you Miss them?

Last held in January 2020, the Miss New York USA pageant wraps up Friday at the Resorts World Catskills hotel.

One hundred sixty women, ages 18 to 28 and from every corner of the state, will compete in front of a live audience in three categories: interview, evening gown and swimwear. The winner will go on to compete in the the Miss USA Pageant in November.

“I’m amazed that considering we’re still going through a pandemic, they work so hard and . . . still manage to look beautiful through all the hardship,” said second-time judge and fashion designer Antonio Estrada.

Many of the contestants are far from beauty-queen clichés. An aspiring cop, a banker and a former ballerina are among those competing.

“This is why I love New York: It’s the melting pot of nothing but courageous, strong individuals who are all competing for the title,” Estrada said.

Meet a selection of the 160 fabulous women vying for the crown.

Rachelle di Stasio, 24, Upper West Side

Former ballerina-turned Wilhelmina model Rachelle di Stasio struts her stuff in her first beauty pageant.
Former ballerina-turned-Wilhelmina model Rachelle di Stasio struts her stuff in her first beauty pageant.

After surviving a sexual assault at age 4, di Stasio, an American Ballet Theatre dancer-turned-Wilhelmina model wants to help other victims. “I’ve been able to use my voice and strength to get me where I am today, and want to let other women know that their past doesn’t affect their self-worth or who they are,” said the contestant, who has worked with the nonprofit Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) and plans to share her personal story during the interview portion. “[I’m] ready for my voice to be heard, my story to be shared and be part of something beautiful,” she recently told her 108,000 followers on Instagram.

Nathalie Borgella, 27, Hell’s Kitchen

Figure skating phenom Nathalie Borgella is competing in her sixth Miss New York USA pageant.
Figure skating phenom Nathalie Borgella is competing in her sixth Miss New York USA pageant.

Growing up with a blind father and little money, the first-generation Haitian-American didn’t have it easy, but found a passion in figure skating. “It seemed like all the odds were stacked against me,” said Borgella, who persevered to become a high level figure skater — and help others. She’s now a coach and director for the nonprofit organization Figure Skating in Harlem, where she works with low-income girls of color. “I strongly believe that where there’s a will there’s always a way to achieve your dreams,” she said. This will be her sixth and final year competing in the pageant, and she’s loved the contrast it strikes with skating. “I’m used to being in leggings with my hair in a bun on the ice at 6 a.m.,” she said. “Getting glam is a treat.”

Heather Nunez, 25, Kew Garden Hills

The woman in red will soon be wearing blue: Future NYPD officer Heather Nunez is entering the academy in October.
The woman in red will soon be wearing blue: Future NYPD officer Heather Nunez is entering the academy in October.
Credit: Brooily Vargas; Sebastian Melendez

As a teenager she was in an abusive relationship and only able to escape after turning to law enforcement for help. Now, after graduating from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, Nunez, who grew up in Queens, is planning to start the NYPD Academy in October. While these are fraught times for the force, she’s intent on making a difference. “We need more people on duty who know what it’s like and can help bridge the gap between both communities,” she said. “I always aspired to be a police officer as a young girl because I witnessed so much and was motivated to put an end to it.”

Emily Mahana, 24, Syracuse

Miss New York USA contestant Emily Mahana
Upstater Emily Mahana is making her debut in this year’s pageant.
Courtesy of Emily Mahana (left); Carlos Velez (right)

First-time contestant Mahana is a former Irish dancer and wants to educate women in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics.) “I started my STEM Sundays with Emily series during COVID to educate children about STEM during the pandemic using household materials. Every week, there is a new episode and a different hands-on activity,” she said.

Lauren Reilly, 28, Hell’s Kitchen

Lauren Reilly, finance whiz and competitive swimmer, wears many hats -- and hopes a crown will be one of them.
Lauren Reilly, finance whiz and competitive swimmer, wears many hats — and hopes a crown will be one of them.

First-generation Chinese-American Lauren Reilly is a wealth management associate at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, an entrepreneur — during the pandemic, she started her own company, Hunts of New York, that sells both used and new discounted designer items — and a former competitive swimmer working to get others in the water. Reilly gives her time to the Special Olympics of New York as a certified swim coach and council member. “I want to lead by example and show our youth that we will face our adversities, but we will also rise above it,” she said. “We need to be brave to find our identities, to try new things, and [be open] to new ideas and new journeys.”  

Sandra Popielarz, 27, Jamestown

Sandra Popielarz has beauty and brains: She's an Ivy League grad.
Sandra Popielarz has beauty and brains: She’s an Ivy League grad.
Photo credit: Franz Orban (2)

The Ivy League grad from the University of Pennsylvania loves to give back. She started sewing American flag pillow cases for US soldiers overseas and heart pillows for cancer patients as a kid. “Volunteering makes me happy and fulfills me. When I am stressed or sad volunteering helps clear my mind and brings me happiness to cheer others up,” she said.

Maryam Jaafar, 26, Queens

The Queens College grad has a BS in finance and international business and minored in philosophy. “I worked in corporate for over two years and during the pandemic I decided to start my own modestwear website (called Mary Dean Modesty). I am currently focusing my time on my own business as this has been a dream of mine since I was a young girl,” she said.

Katherine McQuade, 25, Whitestone

Miss New York USA contestant Katherine McQuade
Katherine McQuade is in it to win it: “I always pictured myself winning as a little girl.”
Photos by Carlos Velez (2)

The industrious beauty launched her own marketing agency, KMM Consulting, and competed in her first Miss New York USA pageant last year, nabbing a spot in the Top 20. “I have been competing in pageants since the age of 10 and grew up watching Miss USA on television,” said McQuade. “I always pictured myself winning as a little girl and now that I am competing for the title of Miss New York USA, I am one step closer to attaining my childhood dream.”  

Heather Marie Thompson, 24, Glenville

Heather Marie Thompson is competing in her fourth Miss New York USA pageant.
Heather Marie Thompson is competing in her fourth Miss New York USA pageant.
Credit: Carlos Velez Photography

The mental health awareness advocate believes in the “power” of sharing one’s journey. “Each time I compete I learn more about myself and the competition. I have become more confident in who I am as a person, from my personality to my looks,” said Thompson, who dreams of modeling her own swimwear line in Sports Illustrated, but still holds one chief purpose in life: “The most important goal I have is to keep spreading positivity and the importance of mental health.”

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What Time Will ‘Riverdale’ Season 6 Be on Netflix?

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The season finale of Riverdale aired in late July on The CW. Notice we said season finale? Thankfully, the beloved series will return for a seventh season, but, unfortunately, Season 7 will be the final installment of Riverdale.

If you already streamed the current season, make sure to read Alex Zalben’s interview with Riverdale showrunner Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa on Decider. If you’re waiting to binge Season 6 on Netflix, well, you better clear your calendar because all 22 episodes are about to drop on the streamer. What time will the sixth season of Riverdale debut on Netflix? What time does Netflix release shows? Here’s everything you need to know.

WHEN IS THE RIVERDALE SEASON 6 NETFLIX RELEASE DATE?

Riverdale Season 6 premieres Sunday, August 7 on Netflix.

HOW MANY EPISODES ARE IN RIVERDALE SEASON 6?

The sixth season of Riverdale consists of 22 episodes.

WHAT TIME DOES NETFLIX RELEASE NEW SHOWS?

Netflix releases new episodes at 3:00 a.m. ET/12:00 a.m. PT.

WHAT TIME WILL RIVERDALE SEASON 6 BE ON NETFLIX?

Netflix is based out of California, so Riverdale Season 6 will be available to stream at 12:00 a.m. Pacific Standard Time (3:00 a.m. Eastern Standard Time) beginning Sunday, August 7. If the clock strikes 12:00 (or 3:00 a.m. for folks on the East Coast) and you don’t see the new episodes, give it a moment, hit refresh, and then enjoy the show!

WILL THERE BE A SEASON 7 OF RIVERDALE?

Yes! Decider recently covered that very topic.

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Actress Anne Heche Suffers Severe Burns After Crashing Car Into Los Angeles Home

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Actress Anne Heche, known for her roles in such films as Donnie Brasco, Volcano and I Know What You Did Last Summer, was involved in a fiery car crash in the Mar Vista area of Los Angeles on Friday.

According to TMZ, Heche was driving a blue Mini Cooper and had first crashed into the garage of an apartment complex. Residents of the apartment complex tried to get her out of the vehicle but she backed up and sped off.

Footage of Heche speeding down the streets of her neighborhood had been obtained by TMZ as well as her initial encounter at the apartment complex.

In the first clip, you can hear her car crash towards the end. It has been reported that the actress crashed into someone’s home, causing her vehicle and the house to erupt into flames. Heche suffered severe burns and was resisting being taken away in a stretcher. You can also view footage of this via the TMZ article.

It has not been confirmed whether alcohol has been involved in the incident since her condition prevents doctors from performing any tests to determine if she was driving under the influence. She is currently intubated in the hospital but expected to live.

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These are the vulgar license-plate requests the DMV has rejected

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Stay CL4SSY, New York!

The state Department of Motor Vehicles nixed 3,752 requests for vanity license plates in the last three years because it deemed them too raunchy, radical or simply ridiculous.

New York’s personalized plates go for $60 initially, and then $31.25 annually for renewal. You can get any plate as long as no one else has it and it’s not offensive.

Odds are a request for a plate that marks a wedding anniversary or shows your allegiance to a team — like METS86 — will pass muster with the DMV gatekeepers.

Vulgarity won’t get you to first base.

So plates with the phrase LFGM — the acronym for Pete Alonso’s “Let’s F–king Go Mets” rallying cry — did not make the cut.

And you won’t see anyone driving around with the custom plates MILFDAD, AS5M4N and WLHUNG.

Crude meanings such as “MILFDAD” are unacceptable by the DMV.
Crude meanings such as “MILFDAD” are unacceptable by the DMV.
New York DMV
NYC123
New York state Department of Motor Vehicles denied more than 3.5 thousand requests for license plates deemed inappropriate.
New York DMV
“AS5M4N” was rejected for referring to “Ass man.”
“AS5M4N” was rejected for referring to “Ass man.”
New York DMV

The DMV also put NICEBUNS, FATFANNY, GOTAPOOP and BENDOVER in the rear-view mirror.

One player unsuccessfully tried to score the plate YESDADDY, to no avail.

The DMV also shot down such dark requests as DEADGIRL, GENOC1DE, S8TAN, DETONATE and MURDERM3.

“SUM8ITCH” is not allowed.
“SUM8ITCH” is not allowed.
New York DMV
The DMV thoroughly nixed a request for “CNNLIES.”
The DMV thoroughly nixed a request for “CNNLIES.”
New York DMV
BOOBIE is prohibited.
BOOBIE is prohibited.
New York DMV

Getting political is a dead end too — FJOEBIDN, FDTRUMP and CNNLIES were nixed.

LUDEDUDE, NARCO, GOT METH and BLUNT also went up in smoke.

Staten Island attorney Bill Dertinger said his blue 1995 Jaguar SJS was tagged with ESQLTD after his company and his 2014 Porsche had the plate GHOSTGTS because the sleek sportscar was white.

“The plates can make you stand out — which can be a curse or a blessing,” the 54-year-old Dertinger said. “Make sure you don’t cut anybody off.”

A man attempted to sneak in “YESDADDY” onto his license plate.
A man attempted to sneak in “YESDADDY” onto his license plate.
New York DMV
The DMV stopped a request for “FJOEBIDEN.”
The DMV stopped a request for “FJOEBIDEN.”
New York DMV
The DMV also rejects any license plates referring to politics.
The DMV also rejects any license plates referring to politics.
New York DMV

There must be a New York Jets fan playing referee at the DMV because a request for the seemingly innocent plate GASE was sidelined. Ex-Jets head coach Adam Gase had an offensive 9-23 win-loss record during his forgettable two-year tenure.

The DMV would not reveal who gives the final yea or nay.

“The DMV reviews all custom license plate requests and works hard to ensure that any combinations that may be considered objectionable are rejected,” said agency spokesman Tim O’Brien.

“GLOCKS” referring to guns is not accepted by the DMV.
“GLOCKS” referring to guns is not accepted by the DMV.
New York DMV
“FLYMOFO” is not approved by the DMV.
“FLYMOFO” is not approved by the DMV.
New York DMV

He said guidelines on what plate combinations are restricted can be found on the DMV website: https://dmv.ny.gov/learn-about-personalized-plates. Approximately 50,000 personalized and custom plates are sold per year, O’Brien said.

Bagged Tags

The state DMV has rejected 3,752 requests for custom license plates in the last three years because it deemed them potentially offensive. Here are some:

YESDADDY

FJOEBIDN

FDTRUMP

GLOCKS

FLYMOFO

BOOBIE

AS5M4N

BUDLIGHT

DEADGIRL

SUM8ITCH

GENOC1DE

S8TAN

CNNLIES

DETONATE

MURDERM3

MILFDAD

WLHUNG

Source: NYS DMV

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