Leslie Ramirez, junior in secondary education and English, is a rapper, poet and now the winner of the 2019 Belleza Latina pageant held on Saturday, April 20 at Kansas State University.
Ramirez is no stranger to the Belleza Latina pageant, hosted by the Hispanic American Leadership Organization, having previously helped with and hosted the pageant — but this year, she got to see a whole other side of it as a contestant for the first time.
Ramirez was born in Mexico City, Mexico, but spent most of her life growing up in Kansas City, Missouri. She said her entry into the Belleza Latina pageant this year was her first time ever competing in any pageant.
Since coming to K-State, Ramirez has been involved with a variety of community service projects thanks to the organizations she’s a part of, including HALO, the Kappa Delta Chi sorority and the League of United Latin American Citizens.
“Currently, I don’t like sleeping,” Ramirez said with a laugh regarding her busy schedule.
Ramirez showcased her rapping skills for the talent portion of the pageant, remixing the hook of the song “Love Yourz” by J. Cole with her own lyrics and a homemade video with a personal message.
“The overall theme was to raise awareness of the issues that were going on, not only in this country but around the world,” Ramirez said. “And then at the same time, kind of having that moment to remind yourself that life is beautiful.”
Although she’s passionate about writing both poetry and rap, Ramirez said it can be scary to perform the songs she wrote herself.
“I felt like this pageant helped me step out of my comfort zone, in the aspect of ‘I would never perform my own music,'” Ramirez said. “It’s something very personal.”
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Tatiana Briceno, sophomore in secondary education and winner of the 2017 Belleza Latina pageant, said Ramirez’s rapping talent was impressive and she was excited to see her win.
“Leslie is really dedicated in everything she does,” Briceno said. “If she’s passionate about something, she’s going to do it to the end. I’m really proud of her. She really deserved the title.”
Every Belleza Latina winner gets a platform to discuss an issue they’re passionate about. Ramirez said she will use her platform to help victims of domestic violence, an issue that is very close to her.
“I’ve seen my mom suffer through that, so I know what it feels like to be in that kind of situation,” Ramirez said. “I wouldn’t want other people to be in it. I would want to provide adequate resources that those people need to get out of this situation.”
As a member of multiple multicultural organizations, Ramirez also said she is glad to see plans moving forward for the Multicultural Student Center currently planned to be constructed at K-State.
“I won’t be here when it’s here,” Ramirez said. “But I still want it to be here for future generations to come.”
Ramirez said her personal favorite part of the pageant was having her family members here to support her, some of whom traveled from Mexico to see her compete.
“It just meant a lot, … having my brothers, my mom, just my family here,” Ramirez said. “It was the most amazing part.”