Serena Exantus is crowned Miss Syracuse Feb. 26.

Miss Syracuse, Miss CNY Crowned 

Three winners will represent at Miss New York 

By Ashley Reeves

Now introducing: Miss Syracuse!

Returning after a two-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Miss Syracuse/Miss Central New York competition took place Saturday night at University United Methodist Church. 

There, 11 contestants competed for the titles of Miss Syracuse, Miss Central New York and a new title introduced this year, Miss Three Sisters. 

Executive Director and co-host Joshua Michael King congratulates Serena Exantus, winner of Miss Syracuse. | Jeff Perkins

Serena Exantus, 23, took home the title of Miss Syracuse, while Clara Tyrel, 20, and Zhanna Reed, 24, were crowned Miss Central New York and Miss Three Sisters.

“I feel so honored and blessed that I am amazed at myself and the way that I have connected with people,” Reed gushed. “I cried once I got the title. I just feel very light-hearted.” 

This year’s winners were crowned following a rigorous competition of not only beauty but also talent and citizenship. According to Executive Director Joshua Michael King, this is not a beauty pageant but a scholarship competition.

“It’s important that we show our community that these women are supported, and we are looking to advance them through their careers,” King said. “As we’re building this organization, these are the women who will lead us. These are the women who will become lawyers and elected officials, our teachers. What they offer is far more valuable than any scholarship.” 

The three winners: Miss Syracuse 2022 Serena Exantus, Miss Three Sisters Zhanna Reed and Miss Central New York Clara Tyrel. | Jeff Perkins

King added, “I think what’s also noteworthy is we have women with disabilities, women who have these remarkable stories of resiliency and triumph. I’m humbled to be able to soak it all in.”

Sgt. First Class Ruby Dawn Price of the U.S. Army along with several prominent figures in the Greater Syracuse area such as Deputy Mayor Sharon Owens, served as judges for the competition. “This is very important because this gives [the contestants] an avenue to do what they need to do,” Price said. 

“This has been fulfilling because I know I was able to give three women an opportunity to follow a legacy,” added Taisha St. Jean, Miss Syracuse 2020, who maintained her title for a second year due to the pandemic’s impact. 

From left to right, Ashley Lawrence (green dress), Julia Walsh, Rachel Barcellona, Vittoria Wakefield, Zhanna Reed, Ladan Osman and Serena Exantus compete. | View more images by Jeff Perkins here.

“Over the past two years, I’ve had to be creative,” she said. “I was able to touch over 12,000 students through virtual workshops, and I was able to fill that void that the public schools weren’t at that time.”

The competition’s three winners, along with their crowns, each received a $1,500 scholarship and will move on to represent Central New York in the 2022 Miss New York pageant later this year. Winners can move on in two tracks: Miss USA’s state competition, which is set for June, and Miss America’s New York State competition which has yet to announce a date.

When asked about her plans as Miss Syracuse, Exantus had this to say: “My goal is to be as present as possible so that I can now be back in person simply just walking around downtown, going into businesses and saying, ‘Hi, I’m Miss Syracuse. How can I be supportive of your business?’”

Ashley Reeves is a journalism student at the Newhouse School and intern for The Stand

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