Valerie Gatto


"To truly understand who I am; you need to know how I was raised, where I came from and where I am going."

Early years - don't let your circumstances define you.  

Valerie was born to a single mother who never told her family that she was pregnant and who had all intentions of putting her up for adoption because she thought that if she was raised in a traditional family she would have a better life.  However, all of that changed the night Valerie was born when her great-grandmother, grandmother and aunt came to the hospital.  Valerie's mom told her family about her adoption plans; but Valerie’s great-grandmother said - God doesn’t give you more than you can handle.  Her mother listened and decided to raise Valerie with the help of God and her family. When Valerie was six, she started asking about her father and her mother explained to her that he was not part of her life and would never be.  When she was about ten, she started asking more questions about her father and her mom explained that she was attacked at knife point and raped which resulted in Valerie being conceived.

College Life - it's all about networking. 

While in college, Valerie began working as a brand ambassador for AMP Energy Drink which led to being a promotional model for other products/brands. While an AMP ambassador, Valerie was one of ten ambassadors nationwide invited to attend the PepsiCo College Summit. There she had the opportunity to network with top company executives and participate in developing new products. Her experiences as a brand ambassador and promotional model drew her to marketing and she decided to get her degree in Business Administration. The summer before her Junior year, the acting bug bit.  The feature film, Abduction, was being filmed in Pittsburgh and Valerie was cast as the stand-in and double for Lily Collins, the female lead.  Being part of the Abduction cast helped Valerie to not only develop her talent, but it also allowed her to make industry connections that she still maintains to this day. 
Once Valerie started school, this theme resonated with her as a Girl Scout.  She participated in many service projects like:  The Be Your Best Goodwill Clothing Drive, Fall Food Share, Christmas Gifts for the children at Mercy Hospital, Operation Dear Abby (Christmas Cards for US Military members stationed overseas) and providing Christmas for less fortunate families.  Girl Scouts also reinforced the strong work ethic that her family instilled.  Whether Valerie was selling products for school fundraisers, cheerleading, or Girl Scout cookies, she always strived to be the best she could be and as a result she was named Newsmaker of the Week by a local paper – the North Hills News Record.  At that time, Valerie was in second grade and one of the questions she was asked was what do you want to be when you grow-up.  She replied a model, actress or marine biologist. Valerie may have given up the idea of being a marine biologist; but she eventually began pursuing modeling and acting.   As Valerie approached her senior year of high school, she put her dream of modeling and acting on hold to pursue higher education. 
Family is a large and important part of Valerie’s life. Her family came together, made sacrifices, worked hard and stayed positive during difficult times. Valerie grew-up living with her mom, maternal grandparents and for a while her aunt.  Every Sunday, Valerie would go to Church with her family and great-grandmother.  Growing up and today, Church is a very important part of her life. Valerie would go to Church-wide events like mother/daughter luncheons and fashion shows (she got to model in with her mom), picnics, baseball games and hayrides.  Besides the fun events, her Church also provided services for the community. One of which was the Church’s food pantry that her mother was in charge of for several years.  As a result, her mom delivered food baskets to those in need and Valerie would go with to deliver.  This taught Valerie that no matter how little she had; there was always someone who had less than her and that it was important to give back.
Since graduating with honors from the University of Pittsburgh, Valerie has been actively blending her love of making a difference, acting and modeling, and developing her professional marketing career. Over the summer of 2013, Valerie spent 52 days in Europe exploring various cultures and teaching English to Italian children. During this time, she stayed with various host families and made several lasting friendships.  Since returning, Valerie is following her acting and modeling dreams.  She starred in an independent film called “Croaker” that will be on DVD by April 2014. Currently, Valerie is Miss Pennsylvania USA 2014. With the title, she hopes to inspire people of all ages and to teach others how to defy the odds and achieve their dreams. She hopes to educate young women about protecting themselves and preventing sexual assault. As an advocate, she hopes to create a stronger society of women. In addition to all of this, Valerie is working for a local periodontal practice as its marketing consultant, as well as a freelance promotions coordinator. 
Her college experience was not all work and career oriented, she also joined Sigma Sigma Sigma Sorority.  Tri-Sigma gave her many opportunities to grow.  Through her sorority, she was able to expand her philanthropic experiences that included raising money for The Robbie Page Foundation and as the Marketing Chair for the annual Pitt Dance Marathon which raised money for the University of Pittsburgh’s Cancer Institute.  As a Senior, she was chosen by Tri-Sigma and the Sports Business Association to represent them as their Homecoming Queen candidate.  This was an honor that allowed Valerie to shed light on Autism Awareness to the more than 20,000 students and faculty of the University of Pittsburgh. In the end, Valerie was elected to the Homecoming Court and will always cherish the opportunity to walk out onto Heinz Field in front of her family, friends and 40,000 alumni and Panther football fans.

"the ladder of success is best climbed by stepping on the rungs of opportunity"