Three Way Tie in Talent
On Thursday, the Miss California's Outstanding Teen competition was home to a three-way tie in talent. Miss Treasure Island's Outstanding Teen Ayra Demirovich sang “Je Veux Vivre”, while Miss Anaheim Hills' Outstanding Teen Helena Czochanski sang “Caro Nome”. Wrapping up our preliminary award winners was Miss Yorba Linda's Outstanding Teen Ava Siniscalchi who danced to “Fight Song”.
These young ladies each receive a $300 scholarship courtesy of Scholarship Associates.
The final preliminary award of the evening went to Miss Anaheim's Outstanding Teen Cameron Doan. She received top score in the Evening Wear/On Stage Question portion, receiving a $300 scholarship sponsored by the Preliminary Pageant Association.
I used to spend my summers with my grandparents at their summer home on the outskirts of Kyiv in Ukraine. There, my fondest and most careless memories take place. I spent my days outside with my imagination entertaining me. When I wasn’t cooking up soup out of flowers, or climbing in my apple tree “house”, I was reading, singing or helping my grandma out in the kitchen and/or garden. I realize now this was the only time in my life when I successfully managed to live in the present.
When I was 7 years old, my parents and I moved to the United States. Ever since then, I have been future-minded. Both having higher education degrees and respectable professions, my parents urged me to take advantage of the abundant opportunities in the U.S. I will never forget the day that they took me to visit a beautiful university. I was 9 during my visit and it was then that my desire and drive to pursue higher education developed. After the visit, I worked diligently in school and managed to get the perfect report cards.
While I became a better student, I also started thinking about the future careers I would be interested in pursuing and/or what I would like to study in university. I dabbled with professions that reflected my hobbies, for I knew I wanted to make a career out of something that made me happy. There were many I considered across different ages: chef, architect, publicist, interior designer. By the time I reached high school, I finally decided on pursuing a business degree.
I vividly remember coming into high school and thinking, “I just want to graduate and go to college” and throughout high school I did everything I could to be an ideal applicant. I enrolled in honors and advanced placement courses, was a member of the National Honor Society and played varsity tennis and golf. Although such a degree of commitment and participation on campus made my high school experience enjoyable and memorable, everything always seemed rushed and geared for getting into college.
It wasn’t until perhaps the second half of my senior year that I realized I wanted it all to slow down. I was hit by the realization that life would change drastically after graduation, no longer would I have the comfort of being with my beloved friends and family anymore on a daily basis. I was about to be hit with an immense wave of unfamiliarity and everything would change.
As I entered college I was quick to indulge in the opportunities at Dominican University of California and was also quick to start thinking about graduation. Here I was, repeating the same mistake I had made when I entered high school. Although I am passionate about what I want to do in the future, I find myself rushing once more through a priceless once in a lifetime experience that is college.
When I found out about the Miss Marin County pageant last year, I decided it would be fun to participate and to meet new people. Preparing for the pageant was incredible and I am thankful for the skills that I acquired and for the people I met throughout the preparation period. On the morning of the pageant, I feared that the journey had come to an end. I decided to shut down my phone and to be completely present as the pageant ensued. For the first time in 12 years, I lived in the present and was not concerned about the future, I just had fun and enjoyed taking part in the competition. To my surprise, I was crowned as Miss Marin County 2018 and the moment was surreal. For once, time slowed down and I was overwhelmed by the excitement and spontaneity of the moment.
My favorite part about starting a new year is the concept of creating resolutions. One of mine is to live in the present more and to focus on the now. With a busy schedule, I often think about what I need to do next, whether it’s in the next minute, hour, day or just the week –I am always forward thinking.
I do see it as a blessing that I have my mind set on the future for this has allowed me to decide what I want in my professional life and to plan the necessary steps to get there. Although it is necessary to think ahead, it is crucial to live in the present and to maximize every moment that life gifts us with.
As I continue my college career, my reign as Miss Marin County 2018 and begin the journey to Miss California, I will continuously remind myself to live in the present moment and I encourage you all to make the same habit. As my father always tells me, “there is no better time than now” so let us make the most of it.
“You don’t look like you would do pageants,” a statement with several variations that I have heard more times than I would like to believe. During my time competing with the Miss America Organization, I have found myself asking if the side comments and judgments were worth the abundant benefits that come along with being a contestant. I wasn’t sure if I was able to withstand the idea of sacrificing the self-worth and confidence that took me my entire life to build. I’ve been told that I’m not pretty enough, that I’m too quirky, that I should lose “at least 15 pounds,” and I can’t even begin to list the comments that have been made about my ethnicity as a Korean-American. As someone who came from a place by which I thought nothing of myself at my lowest point, I was crushed. Why am I putting myself through this?
It took an extensive period of self-reflection in order to put my own health and needs above all else, and that’s when I came to the conclusion that I would not and could not stop fighting for what I believe in. I laid out the answers to my self-doubting question, and it gave me the willpower and determination to become the strongest version of myself, which truthfully caught me by surprise. I refuse to allow any labels to define me, and I am working even harder as a representative and role model to ensure that we can change this outlook for others. I have determined that my message as a representative is to be a source of compassion and empathy for those I encounter, and to ensure that no matter where they come from or the struggles that they have faced, they can accomplish any goal or dream, just as I have. I now have the courage to stand up to the cynicism surrounding being a contestant, and I am proud to explain what the Miss America Organization truly stands for, and that I am a representative and strong believer of its efforts. I would not be the person that I am without having had this opportunity, and I would never have felt so sure of myself.
When the crown was placed on my head and I was officially named Miss City of Orange 2018, I finally felt as though I had the voice and ability to impact the lives of others and to be a representative of a larger purpose.
Six years ago, I had no idea of the impact the Miss California and Miss America Organizations would have on the person I am today. In this vlog, I share a few quick facts about myself, the beginning of my involvement with MAO, and more on my platform– Ending Substance Abuse.
At the end of each year, we see a phrase inevitably being adopted by those around us: “new year, new me.” The yearly recaps posted on social media by friends and family nearly always come accompanied by a new set of goals for the coming year. For example, last year I tried to give up chocolate to curb my chocoholic addiction once and for all… but anyone who knows me knows that wasn’t going to happen. 😉 (*types as I finish off the foot of my See’s chocolate Santa)
Admittedly, the last couple weeks I found myself scrolling past these multi-paragraph posts, feeling too busy with my crazy holiday schedule to take a break to read them. Over New Years while on vacation with friends, I had been focusing on my own resolution of being more present with those around me… and less with my face in my phone. So on the long plane ride home I realized I finally had the perfect opportunity to take the time to read those lengthy New Years posts that had been flooding my newsfeed the weeks prior.
After nearly two hours of reading, liking, commenting and adding loved ones’ thoughts to my own 2018 goals, I came to an eye-opening conclusion: Nearly every resolution I saw could somehow be linked to the ideals promoted by the Miss America Organization. I found this incredible because one of the most common questions I hear from pageant naysayers is how Miss America is still relevant today. Yet right on my screen were dozens of friends writing about how they were hoping to accomplish the same goals in 2018 that we as MAO titleholders set out for every year. This got me thinking… if all these resolutions are somehow linked to what we as titleholders strive to embody on a daily basis, then this idea helps validate what we’ve been promoting all along.
So, my friends, I give you the Top 5 News Years resolutions in the U.S. … and how the Miss America Organization helps young women around the country achieve them:
- Eat healthier/exercise more: One of the most well-known categories of the Miss America competition is Lifestyle and Fitness, or swimsuit. What many people are surprised to hear is how empowering this phase is to the contestants. For months, we work out, fuel our bodies with the healthiest foods and push ourselves to reach our fitness goals to walk on stage feeling more confident than ever. Every body is different, and the Miss America Organization embraces this. It’s not about who is the skinniest. It’s not about which contestant looks resembles a Victoria’s Secret model. Rather it’s about celebrating our individual commitments to leading healthy and active lifestyles… and feeling undeniably empowered in the process.
- Read more: As local titleholders, we read A LOT: newspapers, books, news apps, anything we can get our hands on to stay informed about the world around us. We listen. We observe. And we formulate educated opinions to stand up for our beliefs and do our part to make a difference. We do this all not just to prepare for our 10-minute interview with the judges (where we can be asked anything from our knowledge of current events to questions about ourselves to our stances on hot topic world issues). Rather, we do this because as ambassadors for our communities and for this scholarship program, we know it’s our duty to be active citizens with courage of our convictions. We stand on stage with bright lights hitting our face, thousands of eyes on us, and television cameras broadcasting our every move to viewers around the country… and answer questions that could trip up even a seasoned politician. Every year, I can’t help but watch these women on stage and be incredibly impressed by their poise and intelligence in the face of pressure.
- Learn something new: As titleholders, we are constantly learning new things to improve and grow throughout our preparation for Miss California and year as local representatives. However, what we learn is unique to each woman as we propel through our personal journeys of self-improvement. For me, every phase of competition acts as a motivator to work on the areas of my life that I’d want to excel in whether I was competing or not. The organization encourages me to embrace my talents, be more involved in my community, stand up for causes I care about and act as a role model to the younger generation.
- Save money: While this is a New Years resolution I always am working to improve on (your girl is a sucker for a cute pair of shoes), competing in the Miss America Organization alleviates an incredible amount of financial burden. Why? Because the Miss America Organization is the world’s largest scholarship provider for women in the world. I’ve been so fortunate to have earned over $10,000 throughout my years competing to help fund my undergraduate degree at Duke University (Go Blue Devils!) and my upcoming Master’s at Northwestern. Miss America, Cara Mund, has earned $95,000 to help fund her degree at Brown. That’s truly incredible! And the best part is that you can compete on a budget and still be successful. My first year at Miss California’s Outstanding Teen in 2008, I bought my entire competition wardrobe at Forever 21 and on eBay. Last year, I had the help of my committee and some incredible sponsors to help a broke college girl feel like a million bucks on the Miss California stage. These sponsors and volunteers are the backbone of the organization and work tirelessly to help participants grow, learn and feel confident.
- Be nicer/kinder/more patient: Finally, what I appreciate most about the Miss America Organization is the sisterhood we share. The women I have met through this organization are some of the most encouraging, driven and ambitious women I have had the privilege of knowing. Their philanthropic hearts propel them to make a difference in their communities and be role models to everyone they meet. Through our platforms (mine is Alzheimer’s Awareness in memory of my grandma Mary Fran), we pinpoint our passions, devise marketable strategies to promote our causes, and follow through to make a difference. We project positivity and strive to make every person we encounter feel important. And that is always relevant.