The sky’s the limit for one young Howard Beach star.
Joli Russo is a beauty pageant winner and an actress who has appeared in movies and television — and she is only nine-years-old.
Russo recently finished working on her second short film, “Dream of Flying,” directed by actress and model Georgina Chapman. Now she is preparing to compete in the upcoming International Junior Miss beauty pageant as Miss Italy in the princess division for ages 7 to ten. The competition runs from July 22 through 27.
“I’m absolutely ecstatic, because she shows that she is a true leader and that she is an upcoming, rising star,” mother Lisa Russo said.
The girl started doing beauty pageants when she was six years old at a family friend’s suggestion. Despite losing her first pageant, National American Miss, she enjoyed the journey and vowed to return to the spotlight the following year.
“I never knew about pageants when I was little. But once I did, it the first year, I was like, ‘Mommy I want to do it again,’” Russo said.
The next year, she placed fourth in the contest and the year after that, she finally captured the crown. Since then, Russo has competed in other competitions to win two more titles. Russo enjoys it so much that she has her eyes set on the ultimate prize; Miss Universe.
“I love doing pageants because for me, it’s so much fun and you get to show off your personality. And I make new friends in pageants,” Russo said. “On my first pageant I was very nervous. But once I got used to it, I learned to relax and show my personality.”
Aside from pageants, Russo appeared in episodes of “What Would You Do?” with ABC correspondent John Quinones. Last year, she recorded a radio advertisement for McDonalds and had a role in “Thanks Dad,” a short film by director Victor Bruno. It was featured as a finalist in the 2012 Tropfest, an international short film festival.
Recognizing the importance of charity, Russo uses her current title as Miss New York Junior Pre-teen to do food and clothing drives and a costume drives for Halloween. Because both parents are cancer survivors, she dreams of becoming a doctor and finding a cure for the disease.
For the upcoming pageant, Russo is representing Italy, because of her family and the Italian groups that sponsor her. Those include the Columbus Day Foundation.
Russo has prepared an eloquent introduction speech that’s sure to grab the judges’ attention. As for the talent portion, she will tap into her acting experience and recite a scene from the Broadway play “Matilda.”
“I think I really do have a good shot to win this pageant,” She said. “I have been practicing very hard and I’ve done pageants for a very long time.”