Seeing Through Other’s Eyes

A fellow classmate was describing to me his life back at home in a small village on the island of Tonga. He described his village as a place where, “everyone knows everybody.” This tight knit community has no neighbors; everyone is considered family. Everyday, they go out to catch fresh fish to eat for their next meal. Family gatherings are a staple in his community and a celebration is not complete without cultural dances, music, lots of food and of course, lots of fish.

image1 (1)These are the types of stories I get to hear everyday as a student at BYU-Hawaii, majoring in Business Management, emphasizing in Hospitality and Tourism. I chose this university in the middle of the Pacific Ocean because of their unique Hospitality and Tourism program, which offers great first-hand experience in a place that relies heavily on the industry.

Coming here, I knew that the campus had a diverse pool of students because of its Pacific centered location. However, I did not realize that BYU-Hawaii is one of the most diverse college campuses in the nation, with over 70 countries represented.  I’ve met and made friends with people like Kiwi and Toshi from Japan, Lu from Fiji, Kaylee from Utah, Lima from Samoa, Liv from Washington, Roche from Qatar, and many more. Each day I’m privileged to interact with people from many different cultures.  

No matter how different we may be, we can always find something in common that we share, or learn something new about each other. Through my experiences, I have gained an even greater sense of gratitude and pride in my home state of California. 

image2As individuals share their stories with me, I also share my own. “My name is Nikki Holbrook. I am from Sacramento, California. I have lived there my whole life.” It’s always entertaining to see people’s reactions when I tell them about California. The looks of awe I receive when I explain the cultural and geographical diversity of our state. Explaining how, yes, we do have beaches, but we also have beautiful snow-capped mountain ranges, deserts, world-renowned architecture, and everything else that we may grow!  (#WeGrowBeauty)

I so thankful to be a part of the Miss California Organization and to possibly have the opportunity to represent one of the most diverse states in the nation. Growing up in California, and having these experiences at BYU-Hawaii, have expanded my appreciation for all people and makes me proud to call California home.


                  Thank you for letting me share,

                               Nikki Holbrook

                       Miss Barbary Coast 2018



**Keep up with my year on my various social media accounts!**

Facebook/Youtube: Miss Barbary Coast, Instagram: @missbarbarycoast, and Twitter: @missbarbarycst

Four Points Feature with Miss Golden Gate 2018

Meet Miss Golden Gate 2018– Chelsea Vuong as she begins her journey to Miss California 2018!

Here she will introduce the four points of the Miss America crown, share her experience at Harvard University and how it shaped her platform, and the events that helped her become the person she is today.

Empowered Women Empower Women

MacKenzieMy “Aha!” moment for my platform was while I was in college working a seasonal job in agriculture. My mother gave me Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In for Graduates. I was skeptical but began reading. I have never finished a book so quickly, or ever felt so passionately motivated about something. Sandberg described the struggles that women face as they begin their careers. She explained her own experiences and those of her close friends, but she also incorporated copious amounts of research to ground her assertions. The tone was neither confrontational, nor was it placing blame on any particular group of people; instead, it was factual and practical. Her approach resonated with me so deeply that I knew instantly that this was an issue I could stand behind.

CrystalHaving experienced instances of the discrimination Sheryl mentions, I chose to implement a platform that focuses on bringing about awareness of the obstacles women often face in the workplace, while at the same time offering practical tools to navigate the workforce as a woman. Women have made huge strides in equality during the last five decades, but there is still plenty of work to be done.  I am thankful to the Miss America Organization for bringing other women into my life who are natural leaders. They use their position to create positive change. They lead by example with a servant’s heart but are not afraid to speak up when they feel it is necessary. One of these extraordinary women is Crystal Lee, Miss California 2013. Having competed in the Miss America Organization throughout her teens and early twenties, Crystal has now started her career in the tech industry. Being a strong woman in a male-dominated field, I wanted to get Crystal’s take on her experiences as an Asian-American woman in the workplace.


MF: As a woman in a very male-dominated field, how has your gender played a role in your experience trying to launch your career?


CL: As with all things in life, there can be advantages and disadvantages. I’ve found that a fair amount of resilience and healthy ignorance has helped me launch my career.


My first boss at Google loved that I was Miss California. I will always be thankful to him for hiring me and supporting me right after “retiring” from pageants. Many of the women on that team helped me transition to the working world and to this day they are still my friends.


Where I’ve found it to be more of a challenge as a woman in tech is in building relationships within teams and individuals who are less accustomed to a young, female presence. Now I am often in business meetings with potential insurance and financial partners who probably notice that I don’t often fit the typical profile of an enterprise software founder.


MF: Can you give one example of gender discrimination you have personally experienced?


CL: I once had someone tell me, “Wow, you're a lot smarter and more impressive than I thought you would be. You're not like most pageant girls.” I wanted to turn to this person and say, “wow you're less attractive that I thought you would be.”


MF: Do you feel that your background in pageantry has positively impacted how you approach your career and push to overcome the obstacles that arise in your path?


CL: Without a doubt – YES. I've gained perseverance, resilience, public speaking skills, confidence, and so much more.


MF: Considering that a huge part of the employment gap between men and women is due to the fact that women, whether intentionally or subconsciously, hold themselves back from seizing opportunities in workplace, what is one piece of advice you’ve learned through your own experience that you would give to young women preparing to begin their careers?


CL: Be bold. Ask for things you feel unqualified for; whether it's about pay, project assignments, benefits, anything. Get used to asking. The worst they can say is no – and that’s something that anyone who has previously accomplished great things knows well.


Also, being obedient is overrated. Put yourself in positions that are challenging and hard. Don't be afraid to fail early and fail often. Your 20s are for those formative experiences and if you've never failed, you're not pushing yourself enough.


MacKenzie1There are some challenging assumptions about women’s behavior: women are expected to be quieter, gentler, and more compassionate. We are expected to behave a certain way and when we do not, feathers are often ruffled. This has contributed to the lack of diversity and damaging stereotypes which Crystal mentioned above. Obviously, one of the ways to have a profound impact on the conversation regarding equality in the workplace is by producing more women like those found in the Miss America Organization, but the work cannot end there. Women (and men) need to actively support women who lead with strength, intelligence, and charisma. Just as Crystal said, be bold and unafraid of failure, because there is power in numbers and you as an empowered woman (or man) will empower other women. That is a powerful chain reaction.

Tour San Francisco with Sarah Dahdouh

Have you ever wondered why someone would leave their heart in San Francisco? Now you can find out! Join Sarah Dahdouh, Miss San Francisco, as she explores her top 3 favorite places in the city!

Valerie Alcaraz- 10 Years Later

It took me 10 years to win the honor of competing on the Miss Calfiornia stage for the first time. In my vlog, I answer a question that I am asked every single year: Why do you continue competing despite the same outcome? I recount my first moment with the Miss America Organization and what has kept me optimistic and passionate all these years. This is a very emotional vlog because I explore the woman I've become throughout this journey. From ages 13-23 I've invested my heart and soul into the Miss America Organization and my platform the Girl Scouts of America. To show how much I've grown, I bring out an old photo of myself and Bree Morse (Miss California 2015) in our first year competing and the tiara I won that year in 2007 as first runner up in the outstanding teen program. There's even a cameo from my dog Gizmo! I'm so honored to have this opportunity and I think this video conveys it perfectly.

From Pumpfakes to Pageants- Miss High Desert and the Year Ahead

575569_3755875746167_1306864853_n (1) Hello! My name is Katherine Reaves and I am Miss High Desert 2018. I’m not really social media savvy. I can make a computer work, but I’m still trying to figure out how to shift down on my Instagram page so that I can put my “Miss High Desert 2018” title in my bio. So, when I was faced with the idea of making a blog, I was slightly apprehensive…what do I write? I don’t usually write freely, and anything I have written in the past four years had to be at least nine paragraphs with five reputable sources, none of which could be Wikipedia, and all of which were discussing artifacts and art that have been buried under the earth or in some church for centuries. However, I am going to try and relax, just blog, and leave out the five sources.

When I decided to enter my first pageant two years ago, it was in an effort to sing on as many stages as possible. Also, I was in love with the idea of waltzing around a stage in a sparkly gown, as adoring fans applauded. However, once I was in the midst of the competition, my competitive streak kicked in, finely tuned like a Stradivarius violin due to nineteen years of highly aggressive basketball. So, when I lost, I was extremely distressed. I then continued to enter pageants, but as I continued pageantry my wants changed. Pageants became less focused on the want to win just to win and more focused on the hope to change as many lives as possible while I was in pageantry, even if the lives I touched stopped at those who would be helped by the money I raised for my local pageant.

22279972_10214529468536159_8676987714900691196_nPageantry also inspired me to start my own nonprofit. Sing for the Heart is a program I have put together that will fund grants to give to the local high schools in my area so that they can have their own EKG programs as a part of the student athletes physical. The money will come from benefit concerts where concert goers will be exposed to my own thrilling form of comedic dialogue in between some of my favorite songs. I hope to use this year to not only gain support for my platform and nonprofit, but to also raise money for CMN and for the thousands of women who participate in these pageants to fulfill their educational dreams. 

This year, as Miss High Desert, I am thrilled to embark on a journey that I can’t even begin to imagine. I am a planner by nature, and unabashedly OCD, so the thought of not knowing what’s coming is slightly unsettling. However, with the help of my Desert Beauties team and the rest of the MAO family, I can honestly say that I am ready for the unexpected and content with not knowing. I’m trying to live in each moment… “I never  look back, darlings, it distracts from the now!” (See Figure 1.)

Figure 1. Edna Mode, The Incredibles, Walt Disney Pictures