Beauty pageants are often derided as fluff, but a counter-argument that seems to be growing is that it also helps to highlight exceptional women.
Talking to Today.com, Gatto showed great strength in talking about the difficult circumstances of her birth, and was inspirational in her quotes about overcoming personal hardship.
"I believe God put me here for a reason," she said. "To give [people] hope that everything is possible and you can't let your circumstances define your life."
She revealed that a man dressed in black attacked her mother when she was 19, forcing himself upon her behind a building until a passing car scared him, and she managed to run away.
She hopes that winning the competition will give her an even bigger platform to talking about these issues.
She added: "I hope to show others how to be proactive, what to do, to be present, to be aware of your surroundings. It's so awesome to see their responses. They say it changes their life."
Her mother finally told her the truth when she was 10 years old, and revealed that she almost put her up for adoption, until her mother said: "God doesn't give you more than you can handle."
Since then, Valerie told Today: "Being a child of a rape, not knowing who my father is, not knowing if he's ever been found, most people would think it's such a negative situation."
But her family counteracted that by always considering her a blessing and were so supportive in her ambitions that they told her she " could be the president of the United States."