By Jane Fusco
As a young girl, Gina Sabitoni-Arakelian would watch beauty pageants on television with her grandmother, sharing the excitement as the two finalists would hold hands waiting to hear who would be crowned the winner.
In May 2016, Sabitoni-Arakelian experienced that thrill firsthand as she stood onstage and waited to hear if her name would be announced as the winner of the 2016 Mrs. Rhode Island competition.
It was. Gina Sabitoni-Arakelian, 49, of Johnston, had become the oldest and longest-married winner in the competition’s history.
“I couldn’t believe that I’d won,” she said.
At first, Sabitoni-Arakelian said that she thought she was too old to enter the contest, knowing she would be competing with women whose average age was 34. But at the urging of her 102-year-old grandmother, she entered. “My grandmother said, “Do it, you’ve got the look.’”
Nana Di, as she is called, (short for Margaret DiMuccio) has always been a motivating force in her life, Sabitoni-Arakelian said. She said she also received “plenty of support from family and friends” while preparing for the pageant.
Sabitoni-Arakelian has been married to George Arakelian Jr. for 23 years and has two children, George III, 20 and Giavanna, 15. She works full time as an administrative assistant for the Rhode Island Laborers District Council and the Rhode Island Judicial Professional and Technical Employees, Local Union 808, an affiliate of Laborers International of North America.
A longtime community activist and fundraiser, Sabitoni-Arakelian has worked on behalf of Meeting Street School, Make-A-Wish Massachusetts and Rhode Island, MAE Foundation for the Homeless, Gloria Gemma Breast Cancer Foundation, Melissa Delmonico Foundation, American Thyroid Association, Feed 1000, Hasbro Children’s Hospital, Little Heroes Fund, Sandra Fedeli Memorial Scholarship Fund, Rhode Island Community Food Bank. Along with her husband, she hosts The Johnston Street Machines “Cruzin for a Cause” which brings classic car enthusiasts together for charity events.
Mrs. Rhode Island wasn’t the first pageant win for Sabitoni-Arakelian. In 2014, she won the Mrs. Rhode Island Italia pageant, a smaller contest that honors the state’s strong Italian heritage. She also competed in the national Mrs. America competition in Las Vegas last August. She did not win that title, but said she was grateful for the “once in a lifetime experience” and was proud to represent Rhode Island
After returning from the national competition, Sabitoni-Arakelian began powerlifting four times a week to help her keep fit.
“I ended up really liking it,” she said.
Last November, she entered a state powerlifting competition charity event, and won first place. In April, she will compete regionally.
By the end of her reign in May, she will have attended nearly 40 public appearances as Mrs. Rhode Island
After that, she intends to continue with her charity work and encourage women and girls interested in competing in pageants. Most likely that has already started with her daughter. Giavanna, holds the title of Miss Rhode Island American Teenager, which she won last October.
Sabitoni-Arakelian said that she has learned a great deal from this experience.
“You’re never too old to set a goal for yourself. Along the way, I have made some wonderful friendships and met some amazing women.”
She said she’d tell anyone interested in a pageant competition “to be the best version of yourself.”
And just as her centenarian grandmother said to her, “You can do it.”