Miss Greek Independence


These images are a part of an ongoing project documenting Astoria, Queens, a community transitioning from the hands of its aging Greek immigrant population to their own grandchildren.

This swell of third generation youth, moving back to Astoria in droves, are defining what it means to be Greek in America today.

In Astoria, Queens, the Miss Greek Independence pageant is survival of the Greek-est.  Third-generation women, ranging from 15 to 25-years-old, win over judges by sporting professional attire to formal gowns and answering questions only in the mother tongue. Contestants riddle off history facts, like who won the Thirty Days’ War or when Greece signed the Treaty of Constantinople. 

Tensions are high yet everyone wins. Each contestant is gifted a sash from their family’s original region in Greece, from Crete to Sifnos. And the queen gets to show off her crown to the entire kingdom: the crowds of New Yorkers who gather to watch Astoria’s annual Greek Independence Day Parade.

But for Astoria’s fading Greek population, the pageant is the ultimate barometer. Who has absorbed the community’s culture and will it endure for generations to come?

 262.374.2949 — sam@samshanahan.com