Angela Perez Baraquio was born to Filipino immigrants and the eighth of ten children. Her parents immigrated from Pangasinan, Philippines to Hawaii. Baraquio was born on June 1, 1976, and she is the eighth of ten children.
Growing up, she really wanted to be a teacher. She was first inspired by her parents. Her mother taught English and her father was an electrician and at the same time taught science and math. All her teachers inspired her to become one although she credited her second-grade teacher who will leave small notes on Baraquio’s desk that made her feel extra special. Later on, she found out that the teacher will leave similar notes to all her students but Baraquio remarked that her second-grade teacher’s small act created a powerful impression on her and realized how impactful a good teacher can have to his/her students.
She credited two of her students for joining the Miss Hawaii pageant. Competed two times before, she had no plan to enter the pageant again. However, her former students approached her saying they love volleyball but scared to join the team. Baraquio then gave herself as an example. She explained that she took the risk by trying out at Ms. Hawaii in the past. The students then asked why she won’t try again. In the end, they both agreed, as if a dare, that Baraquio will again compete at Miss Hawaii, and her students will try out at the volleyball team.
She was an athletic director and elementary P.E. teacher at Holy Family Catholic Academy in Honolulu when she decided to join Miss Hawaii 2000. When she won, Baraquio became the first teacher to win the title. After winning Ms. Hawaii 2000, she represented the state to the Miss America 2001 pageant. Again, this made Baraquio the only Filipino and the first Asian to win the Miss America title since the pageant’s inception in 1921.
In an interview, Baraquio mentioned that she didn’t give much thought that she was the first Asian American to win Miss America but after a taping for one show, she was approached backstage by a group of Asian Americans and told her how proud they were that Baraquio won the title and thanked her for representing the Asian American minority.
She joined beauty pageants to supplement her higher education. The two pageants she joined netted $14,000 in college scholarship which helped her complete her bachelor’s degree in elementary education. The $81,000 scholarship assistance she received as a prize for winning the Miss American pageant went towards her master’s degree in educational administration.