Reaching the world

San Benito native named humanitarian ambassador

SAN BENITO — She got what she wanted.

And what she wants is the chance to help others.

Liliana Ramirez Vidaurre has just returned from Houston where she competed in the Miss Plus World pageant. She won the humanitarian ambassador crown, giving her the opportunity to travel and learn about humanitarian issues around the world and affect change.

“I am going to go to as many places as I can this year,” said Liliana, 38.

The working model lives in McAllen with her husband and son but hails from San Benito.

“My goal is to raise enough funds and do whatever I can,” she said. “My goal would be to go to South Africa. I have a pageant sister there who was ambassador this past year and she is telling me to come and see how they do things there. She just said, ‘You just tell me when you want to come and I’ll make sure it happens.’”

Liliana competed against more than 10 women from Guam, the South Pacific, Kenya, the Caribbean and other places near and far. She competed in last year’s event in Atlanta and decided to give it another try. The competition from Aug. 7 to 11 was rigorous, to say the least.

The rigor began before the competition.

“We had a choreographer, Rachel Ratliff, who was training us Miss Universe style,” Liliana said.

Choreographer in this sense refers to arranging the steps and movements of the pageant.

“We would get up at 6 o’clock in the morning and get ready, be downstairs by 7. We’d have our breakfast and by 8 on the dot, rehearsals began and we would do that up until noon.”

They’d stop for a quick lunch and then it was back for more practice and rehearsals.

“They worked us hard and we were very grateful for it,” she said. “The show turned out really good. They trained us to do certain skits to come out in. They had the carnival of dresses. Every time we came out on stage it was a different skit and a different choreography, so they kept the show very interesting.”

But the one she was really psyched about was the seven-minute interview for humanitarian ambassador crown. She and the other contestants had already been talking among themselves about humanitarian issues in their respective countries. Liliana had plenty to talk about.

“I think that living so close to the Rio Grande, we are faced with the opportunity to meet people who are crossing through to make a better life,” she said. “We have to decide if, when we meet them, are we going to welcome them and make them feel loved and wanted and valuable or are we going to treat them with disdain.”

Her message fell on very welcome ears, and she got the job, so to speak.

“I have pageant sisters from all over the world who are saying, ‘Come here. Come see how we do things here,’” she said.

And she intends to do as much of that as possible, through fundraisers. She hasn’t planned anything yet, but she expects to do so soon. Anyone wishing to support her can find her on Facebook.

Liliana gave special recognition to J.J. Smith, who gave her some coaching here before she left. She also gave special thanks to her “pageant mothers” Nanette Watts and Constance Zehner.