When Jennifer Weiselberg Auerbach was 7 years old, she walked down the aisle during the 1984 Miss Universe Pageant in Miami.
During the evening gown competition, most of the other girls there — each about 5 to 8 years old and a “little sister” to a particular contestant — lined up on the sides of the aisles and watched the young women glide down. But those paired with a woman in the top 10 got their own moment in the spotlight.
Miss Philippines Desiree Verdadero was the third runner-up that year, and walked with Auerbach by her side. Auerbach said she still remembers the day well.
“It was amazing,” she said. “There’s a huge audience. It’s broadcast around the world and you’re exposed to these beautiful women who are trying to do great things in the world.”
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After the competition, the two did not talk for 30 years. But earlier this month, they reconnected.
“I told her about myself and thanked her for her kindness, and [told her] what an awesome experience it was,” Auerbach said.
Miss Universe’s Little Sister program ran from 1983 to 1995.
Auerbach said she admired Verdadero but never reached out to her as she was growing up.
Later in her life, she moved to New York, where she worked for nearly 13 years. While there she worked for fashion designer Rafe Totengco. When talking to her direct boss, the sister of Totengco, who was also from the Philippines, Auerbach learned that she and Verdadero had modeled together years before.
And earlier this month, Auerbach saw her boss tagged in a post on Facebook with Verdadero.
“I friended her and sent her a message saying it’s been a really long time since we connected,” she said. “She knew exactly who I was.”
The two exchanged pictures and stories about what they were doing now, and talked about what a great tool social media can be, she said.
Auerbach currently lives in Miami, where this year’s Miss Universe pageant is being held. Although she was only 7 during the 1984 event, she said it was a day she won’t forget.
“I think it’s an amazing opportunity for young kids,” she said. “It was wonderful meeting somebody who was so kind to me.”