Miss L.A. Galaxy 2012: Daniella, knock ‘em dead

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Ten have made it to the finals of the Miss L.A. Galaxy 2012 contest (linked here), where the winner serves as a community ambassador for the Major League Soccer team at dozens of events throughout the year.

They’ve each recorded a video interview on the team’s website for fans to watch, mull over, and then record their votes.

There’s Emily, a wedding coordinator. Veronica is a “child life specialist.” Ashley, a public relations student, coaches softball at Malibu High.

Marina is an office specialist, Kirsti works as a “face character at a theme park, and Stephanie is finishing up a Master’s degree at USC in social work.

Ivana wants to be a sideline TV reporter. Nicole, a former Miss USA Tourism winner, aspires to be a full-time minister. Priscilla is an administrative assistant with a Tae Kwon Do black belt who would like to start her own clothing line.

OK, girl with the straight black hair, dark-rimmed glasses and perfect red lipstick, you’re up:

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“Hi, my name is Daniella. I’m a licensed funeral director, licensed embalmer and I love cupcakes.”

Contest over. Sorry, everyone. Thanks for showing up.

Daniella’s got this one dead to rights. She takes the cake.

“Working as a mortician, it is a great conversation starter, right?” Daniella Marcantoni continued to explain over lunch the other day. “Some of my friends call me Morty. Or Tish. Or Mortica. I do collect Frankenstein stuff. I like Halloween. But there are lots of people who aren’t embalmers who like that, too.”

The 26-year-old from Chino Hills, in the funeral industry for the last six years, was recently promoted to be viewing room specialist at Rose Hills mortuary and cemetery in Whittier.

She is very dedicated to the dead. And dead serious about the importance of this contest.

There are a list of rules that one must adhere to if they are to be crowned Miss L.A. Galaxy, a title first given out in 2002 and, during a casting call back in June, had more than 50 applicants this time around.

One, obviously, they have to be a Galaxy fan and a soccer supporter.

“My grandfather played professional soccer in Italy before coming here to play,” she says. “One of the best memories I have of my dad is during a World Cup game when Italy scored and he ran around the kitchen screaming ‘Goal!’

“I’ve been watching Galaxy games since I was in the third and fourth grade, and my friend Michelle had a crush on Cobi Jones. It was the supercool thing back then to get into soccer.”

They also must work well with others, and be active in the community.

“She’s been one of the real leaders of the group at some of the events she’s done for us already,” said Casey Leppanen, the Galaxy’s senior marketing manager. “We know about her goals and aspirations. It’s all about finding someone like her who is driven, wants to make a positive impact.

“I don’t think her job will hurt in this case. It puts a face on what it is. People can see she’s a hard-working, outgoing, respectful, cordial person. When we sat in our meetings, we didn’t know how fans might react. She does have a tough job. It’s not one I’d want to do. But she’s been one of the better candidates. She’s leading the charge in a lot of ways.”

The guidelines also say that the “ideal” candidate for Miss Galaxy would be someone with “an outgoing and optimistic attitude.”

That’s possible in Daniella’s line of work?

“Why not?” she asks. “Any day you’re not on the other side of what we do is a good day, right?”

Don’t throw dirt on Daniella’s campaign just because you may be a little creeped out.

She’s been through four colleges to land associate degrees in administrative justice and mortuary science, as well as a BA in business administration and leadership. She wants an MBA degree soon so she can open her own funeral home.

After considering a career in forensic pathology, she found her empathy for helping people, combined with a creative, artistic background, made the funeral industry a place that brought out the best of everything.

Especially if her schedule allowed her to get to soccer games.

“This career defines you in some ways, because it really takes a certain type of person,” said Daniella, a spokesperson for a group called Funeral Divas, which empowers women who are working professionals in this field. “But I do have so many other interests and hobbies that I don’t feel overpowered by it.

“Could it help me in this competition? Well, some may be put off by it. They could have preconceived notions that we’re old and grumpy and depressed. Or serial killers. Or have weird fetishes. Really?”

Granted, Landon Donovan is her favorite player. But she’s not sizing him up for going-away party.

“I may be the only embalmer someone has ever met, or ever will meet. I guess it sets me apart in some ways. But I love educating people. Living in L.A., kids can get conflicted messages about what’s cool. I’d love for kids to embrace things of substance that makes them important people in the world. I hope I can help get that across.”

Fan voting begins this week online. The winner will be crowned during Fan Appreciation ceremonies at Saturday’s Galaxy game against Real Salt Lake at Home Depot Center.
Daniella’s victory, if it happens, should lay to rest any concerns that the funeral industry may turn off die-hard soccer fans.

This has already been a huge undertaking for her.

“All I know is I’ve been the nerdy girl all my life,” Daniella said. “I can be socially awkward and introverted. But this has been a great platform to let everyone know about this career, to hang out with nine other cool girls and do super fun stuff.

“I think just being in the industry, everyone kind of has an appreciation for life that not many could understand without being exposed to what we have been. It really gives you a greater appreciation and acts as a great motivator to act as if every day could be your last, because in reality it could be.

“You also have to know that working in this job, there is a lot of stress involved, so you have to have a sense of humor. There’s always a time and place for it. I just know there are a lot of other careers I wouldn’t be caught dead doing if I wasn’t passionate about it.”

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