Johnston's Sabitoni-Arakelian crowned Mrs. RI Italia 2014

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“There she is, Mrs. Rhode Island Italia 2014 ...”

Although Bert Parks wasn’t at D’Vine Restaurant on Providence’s Federal Hill singing that famed Miss America song, the recent Miss Rhode Island Italia Pageant produced as many thrills for ladies like Johnston’s Gina Sabitoni-Arakelian as the nationally televised competition.

Sabitoni-Arakelian, you see, was one of six girls and women chosen to represent their Italian-American heritage for the next year at such events as parades, social functions and various other prestigious events.

And all that happened thanks to Pat Paolino Cruz, a graduate of Cranston West High School who felt that “because we have such a high percentage of people with Italian ethnicity, it was time to showcase some of our beautiful women and showcase our culture.”

Thus, Paolino Cruz – who lives in the Warwick section of Pawtuxet Village, is co-director of the Southern New England Women’s Expo and publishes Southern New England Women–

Barbara Morse-Silva, popular medical reporter/news anchor at NBC10, served as hostess for the event, which this year expanded its age categories and conducted a search to find contestants of Italian descent who would represent their ethnic background and participate in Providence’s Columbus Day Parade and other similar events.

Sabitoni-Arakelian was “thrilled” with her recent triumph – which almost didn’t happen.

An executive assistant/executive board member at the Rhode Island Laborers District Council, she was reading an advertisement for Paolino Cruz’s pageant and thought she would like to apply.

She had reservations, however, because “it had been such a long time since I had participated in any type of pageant or modeling experience that began back when she was a teenager.”

“As I thought more about this, the more I wanted to do this for myself, being 100-percent Italian, proud and loving my Italian culture,” Sabitoni-Arakelian said. “I thought I could be a fine representative for Italian beauty and culture.”

But before she signed on for the contest, she had to check with one lady – her grandmother, Margaret DiMuccio, who just so happened to be 99 years young.

“As a young girl, I would always watch pageants with Nana,” Sabitoni-Arakelian recalled. “She has and continues to be such a motivating force in my life, so it was absolutely necessary to talk with Nana and get her thoughts.”

Once Nana gave the thumbs up, Sabitoni-Arakelian began he quest for the title of Mrs. Rhode Island Italia 2014.

“Nana gave me the confidence to go forward,” Sabitoni-Arakelian said with a wide smile.

Thus, Sabitoni-Arakelian – like contestants at five other age levels – were presented with questions and faced a panel of judges who determined each winner based on all the qualities they felt best represented Italian beauty and culture.

“I am so honored to represent my Italian heritage as Rhode Island’s Mrs. Italia,” she said. “I am an Italian girl who grew up in Knightsville [the Italian section of Cranston], where my neighbors were all my relatives and Nana and Papa DiMuccio lived across the street. Along with my parents, having your Italian grandparents as your neighbors certainly shapes and teaches you about growing up Italian.”

On Sunday, July 20, Sabitoni-Arakelian will be back in Knightsville participating in the annual St. Mary’s Feast Parade, just as she’s done since her childhood. This time, though, will be different – she’s riding on a float, instead of helping to build one.

Gina is married to George Arakelian Jr., who owns and operates A Custom Car Stereo on Atwood Avenue in Johnston, where the couple lives with their two children, George II and Giavanna.

She describes herself as a strong, independent, hard-working woman who loves her family with devotion. She also gives back to the community and causes close to her hear year round.

“I am honored to have been chosen as Mrs. RI Italia. It was special,” she went on. “But not just for me – Nana’s 100th birthday will be here in 100 days, and I wanted to acknowledge this monumental day by giving her a rose every day for the next 100 days.”

Sabitoni-Arakelian then paused, before concluding: “Italian life is all about ‘la famiglia, mangiare e amore’ – the family, food and love. Grazie!”

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