By Tristan E. M. Leach
IN a movie-like moment, Victoria Mozitis stood on stage at the Resorts Hotel Casino while her name was read out and the audience cheered. In her floor-length, red gown, Mozitis bowed as the crown was placed on her head. Mozitis was Miss New Jersey 2023.
Not too long ago, Mozitis was competing in her first competition. COVID-19 shut down the world of musical theater, Mozitis’s passion and the major she had chosen to study while attending Rider. A family friend approached Mozitis’s father to ask if she would be interested in joining a pageant that was looking for more young women.
“Theater was still closed and I was dying to perform and sing on a stage. There is a talent portion and that was something that really drew me to the organization. I did that one [competition] and I was hooked … I’ve been there ever since. I just love what the organization [Miss New Jersey] stands for,” said Mozitis.
Mozitis was a runner-up for her first pageant and that was the motivation to keep going. Her work and dedication paid off and she won Miss Gloucester County 2022. The win allowed her to compete for Miss New Jersey in 2022. Mozitis made it into the top 10 and in 2023 earned a ticket to compete again after being crowned Miss Cape Shores.
During her senior year, Mozitis juggled her classes, her work as a sister of Zeta Tau Alpha (ZTA), preparing for the 2023 competition and her service project regarding literacy for Miss New Jersey, as all women competing must complete a service project to a cause of their choice.
Mozitis said, “Throughout the year, I put together certain service projects to strengthen that platform. I partnered with an organization called The African Library Project. They are an amazing organization that partners individuals in the United States with potential libraries and schools over in Africa. They paired with this teeny-tiny school in Uganda that wanted a library and I got the school [Rider] involved.”
Mollie Brislin, a senior majoring in business administration, was Mozitis’ sorority twin in ZTA and got to watch the process that Mozitis went through last school year.
“When you think of pageantry there’s all these negative connotations because in the history of pageantry there’ve been some troublesome things. Seeing her [Mozitis] go through it and seeing how the Miss America organization has evolved was really cool,” said Brislin. “It’s so much more about what’s on the inside and the type of person you are. It was really cool to watch that process.”
Mozitis got her sisters involved and a community service project was born. A book drive was started and, with the donations from other members of Greek Life, over 700 books were collected and sent to the school in Uganda.
“That was the biggest thing I’ve ever done and it was the biggest thing I’d done to strengthen that initiative,” said Mozitis.
“At first it didn’t feel real, but then we got pictures and comments back from the people in Uganda and that was a really rewarding experience. It was also cool to support Tori in something … doing it [charity work] for someone else was cool,” said Brislin.
Now Mozitis is preparing for the next leg of the competition: Miss America. While there is no set date or location for the pageant yet, Mozitis and her team are working hard to prepare her. However, for Mozitis, being Miss New Jersey isn’t about getting to Miss America, it’s about being an ambassador for New Jersey and role model for young girls.
“I’m excited to watch people see what we’ve been seeing for the last four years. I think people knowing her and seeing her will leave an impact on the state of New Jersey. If we could live in a world full of Tori’s we would live in a really good world,” Brislin said.
“[Miss America] has transformed into America’s big sister and role model for young women and little girls in America. That’s what I want to represent as Miss New Jersey,” said Mozitis.
Hannah Newman is an editor for The Rider News and a sister of ZTA. Newman had no part in the writing or editing of this story.