Reading, watching documentaries and spending time with her family is how Madison Anderson Berríos centers herself. She says the most important part of preparing for the Miss Universe 2019 competition is doing just that: regrouping, refocusing and centering herself, as she believes that having a clear mind will help her succeed.
Anderson, 23, represented the municipality of Toa Baja in the Miss Universe Puerto Rico 2019 competition, a lifelong dream she always knew she wanted to accomplish as her mother was a Puerto Rican beauty queen herself. Anderson grew up in Orlando, Fla., where her mother made sure to raise her conscious of her Puerto Rican heritage.
“Tostones”, “alcapurrias”, “mofongo” and Puerto Rican white rice are some of her favorite things to eat. Salsa was always played in the house, Christmas was not Christmas without Puerto Rican traditions and visiting family on the island was more like a ritual rather than a rare occasion.
“When I would visit Puerto Rico I would say okay ‘I’m going home’, I wouldn’t say ‘oh I’m going on vacation,” said the candidate.
Puerto Rico was always part of Anderson’s life. Staying with her grandmother at a young age, Anderson learned how to cook, sew clothing and appreciate nature, which is now one of her favorite hobbies on the island and something that pulled her back to the island of enchantment. Anderson went into Miss Universe Puerto Rico 2019 with the idea of staying in Puerto Rico after the competition, regardless of the outcome. She wanted to come home and grow more as a person while she worked hard on her Spanish.
The candidate acknowledges that the language barrier been a limitation, but is confident her hard work is starting to pay off. She claims that learning and practicing the language has been a humbling experience that has allowed her to see things from a different perspective.
“I found my identity here, in my island of PR and that’s why I’m so passionate about breaking the language barrier that has always existed; that, quote on quote, ‘who’s more Puerto Rican’, because to me, being Puerto Rican is the love that you have for the island,” said the contestant.
Before Miss Universe Puerto Rico 2019, Anderson represented Puerto Rico in Top Model of the World and Miss Grand International, as she became interested in modeling and the world of beauty when she was 16. For the candidate, winning the title would be the ideal tool to take a positive message and spread it around the world.
Anderson spent six months in St. Kitts & Nevis after she graduated from LaGuardia Community College in New York, where she worked on a documentary about a cause she is very passionate about: domestic violence. If she were to win, the candidate has committed to using her social platform to raise awareness on this very important issue, as Puerto Rico currently faces rising domestic violence figures. For the contestant, it is pure coincidence the issue is so relevant on the island. This cause has been close to Anderson’s heart since seeing a close friend deal with a hard situation.
“People think that this only affects the victim but that is not true. Who is really getting hurt is a community of people. This affects family members, this affects friends, this affects children, so I spoke with many different people to better understand how to help these individuals,” said Anderson.
The advocate has done volunteer work in Orlando Fla., Puerto Rico, St. Kitts and Nevis. If crowned Miss Universe, Anderson also commits to spreading awareness on other social causes like helping people with disabilities, hoping to get involved with SER, an organization that provides services to individuals with learning disabilities and autism. Another cause is the stray animal epidemic that permeates the island.
However, for Anderson, her most important commitment with the people of Puerto Rico, if she were to win, would be making sure Puerto Ricans are presented onto the world how they deserve.
“We are people who are brave, who deserve a just form of living. Most importantly, that is why Puerto Rico is called ‘Isla del Encanto’, because the tourists can come to Puerto Rico and leave as a friend. I am committed to representing Puerto Rico in the best light...because as Puerto Ricans, that’s what we deserve,” said Anderson.
Among her favorite Puerto Rican qualities, resilience is the characteristic she cherishes the most.
Not having a clue about where the Miss Universe 2019 competition will be is starting to bring on some anxiety for the candidate, of the good kind. When asked where she would like the competition to be, Anderson mentioned somewhere in Asia as being ideal. Having been to five different continents, she said Thailand has been one of the most eye-opening and life-changing experiences since it was a completely different culture she was not accustomed to. The candidate hopes to never stop traveling, as she says it “enriches her soul and there is no better way to expand the mind than to travel.”
As she prepares for the competition, Anderson is focused on her oratory classes, Spanish and English classes, as well as participating in a number of activities daily. She maintains a healthy, balanced diet and goes to the gym on a regular basis, which were things that were already part of her routine. To remain sane, she takes some time out of every day to spend by herself reading or singing. She prioritizes her “me time” as the main way to be ready for the competition.
Anderson soon hopes to add singing lessons to the mix of classes she currently takes, which also include trainings to perfect her catwalk for the big day. As for the highly anticipated traditional dress, designer Joshuan Aponte has been confirmed as its maker. The only thing the model hinted at about the dress was its connection with nature, something that “will be very personal to Puerto Ricans.”
Madison feels honored she is the first Miss Universe Puerto Rico candidate who represents the Puerto Rican diaspora, in a time where there are around 5.5 million Puerto Ricans living in the United States. She represents more than just Puerto Rico, she represents the complexity of what being Puerto Rican has become to mean.
“I think that we live in an era where we need to understand that Spanish or English or Chinese or Portuguese, isn’t the first language. The first language is the language of your frequency, the language of your heart. The language of your desire to communicate through your actions... and I hope that I make that clear throughout my reign and just as Madison. I want to make sure I transmit that through everything that I do.”
When asked what has been the weirdest, or most outrageous comment or question she has received, Anderson replied: “That I’m not Puerto Rican.”