The current reigning queen of D.C. shares her journey to receiving the title and her plans for the year as Miss DC USA.
The moments that shape us often are rooted in childhood traditions with loved ones. Current Miss DC USA Cassie Baloue’s interest for pageants stemmed from when she would watch television with her mom.
“I’m very close with my mother,” Baloue says. “We used to watch a lot of the Miss Universe ones because my mom is Trinidadian. We would be excited to see who the USA would send and then also who Trinidad would send. I looked up to those women. They were beautiful, competent and more importantly, very driven.”
Despite her love for the pageant world, Baloue never entered one growing up. Instead, she focused on pursuing a degree in political science at the University of California. After multiple internships working on the Hill, Baloue decided to make the move to D.C. after graduating. For the past three years, she’s worked as the Digital Press Secretary for U.S. Representative Eric Swalwell (D-CA 14th District).
However, Baloue’s curiosity in pageants never wavered and during the pandemic, she began exploring modeling and how to enter a pageant. She viewed it as a way to chase her dreams while also moving forward in her career goals.
“I have a poli sci advocacy background with my education,” Baloue says. “The pageants are a good bridge between my modeling and my advocacy work. It’s a good step towards building my future and career.”
She set her sights on the Miss Virginia USA Pageant in 2021 while living in Arlington. Baloue reached out to her modeling agent Joy Kingsley-Ibeh of Kingsley Models who connected her with her current pageant coach and photographer three months before Miss Virginia USA pageant in 2021.
“Three months is not enough time to do anything really – to get physically ready, to get mentally ready, to get your resume together,” Baloue says. “It just takes a lot, but we did it anyway.”
She began working with a trainer along with her coach and began waking up at 5 am to work out before heading to work. While the hardest part Baloue admits was learning to walk in six-inch plus platforms, she still placed top 16. The experience ignited her desire to compete. After 2021, Baloue switched to the Miss DC USA pageant circuit.
”I fell in love with D.C. when I did my first internship in 2018, during my junior year of college,” Baloue explains of the change. “D.C. has such a rich culture. D.C. is small, but it’s mighty. I’ve had personal transformational growth here, whether it’s my relationship [Ed. Note Baloue recently got engaged to her fiance whom she met in D.C. in 2019], my professional career, or just adulting.”
After winning Miss DC this past April, Baloue competed for Miss USA in Nevada this September where she placed in the top 20. Despite not winning the whole competition, Baloue valued her time there and the connections she made.
“A lot of my sister queens, former Miss DC USA’s kept telling me, ‘There’s no point going to Miss USA and being cold and distant because there’s only one girl who wins at the end of the day, and if that’s not you, you don’t want to walk away with nothing.’” Baloue recalls. “So, I let my guard down. I roomed with Miss Delaware and she became a really close friend of mine. For the most part, I will say it was a very positive experience. My class was able to create a bond.”
But Baloue’s journey hasn’t always been easy. Her mother has been battling cancer over the past few years.
“Last year when I competed at Miss DC USA, my mom’s cancer came back very aggressively two weeks before the pageant,” Baloue says. “She was in the hospital in Ohio, but did not tell me she was in the hospital. I found out she was there seconds before I was supposed to get on stage to compete. I was devastated. I was sobbing. I was crying. I was trying to run away. I was trying to leave the pageant and not participate. But one of the sponsors caught me as I was trying to leave and she said, ‘You need to stay. You need to be here. You need to do this for your mother.'”
During that 2022 pageant, she ended up placing third which set her up on the path to winning this year’s competition. Supporting her mom through her cancer journey ran parallel to Baloue pursuing the crown and gave her purpose. Beyond the beauty component, Baloue found depth in pageantry through advocacy.
“The difference between pageantry and models is pageant girls speak,” Baloue says. “We don’t just do high fashion or commercial modeling, we also give speeches. I really love that I have an opportunity to be an advocate and be able to go into a room and not only captivate people with my presence but with what I have to say.”
Prior to winning the title, Baloue became Legislative Ambassador with the American Cancer Society. Since winning, Baloue has visited the cancer center at the Children’s National Hospital, spoke at multiple engagements during Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October and continues to find ways to educate on early detection.
As for her mother’s response to her winning the crown?
“She was constantly crying that weekend. Every time I saw her she was crying tears of joy. She knows how hard I’ve worked and how hard it’s been for me. She’s just really happy that I was able to push through all the heartache and be able to come out strong.”
Photos by Rez Venegas.
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