MESSAGE FROM THE CEO
I am often asked what is my story and why I am involved with the Miss California Organization.
I wanted to be a pilot. Asked for flying lessons before I even wanted to drive…..why? No career pilots in my family. The truth is my grandpa was obsessed with airplanes and worked for Aerospace in El Segundo. I used to sit and eat bologna sandwiches with him at the end of the runways and watch the airplanes land at LAX and I LOVED it. In high school, I wanted to go to the Air Force Academy but was told by a career counselor that it was “not for girls like me”. I was already on track to be a debutante in my community so when I saw a pageant flyer on another counselor's desk, I thought….maybe this is for girls like me!
Entered a teen pageant in Los Angeles and cleaned up…..it seemed easy. Went to the California finals and without even trying was the first runner up of 138 girls. Devastated. What could I have done if I had tried?? My sisters got me a paperweight that Christmas that said, “I am number 3 and I don’t try at all.” It was a mantra for my life up to that point. Everything came easy and I was always in the top without trying but I learned that summer that to be the top, I had to try. That haunting experience changed my life and I would never be number 3 again without trying.
I went to Cal Poly in Aero Engineering because I was not going to the Air Force Academy to design the airplanes that I loved. It was then I realized my love of math and science did not equate for a love of engineering. Talked to one of my teen judges who also worked with the Miss America Program. I knew I wanted to go to flight school at the price tag of 30K and he told me Miss America gave out millions in scholarships to women and the California winner received $10,000! So I started my Miss America journey. I did the talent of “engineering” by producing a show, set and performed inside and took it all the way to Miss America in 1992. At the end of my year, I had earned 25K and was able to head off to flight school and realize my dream of becoming a commercial airline pilot. During flight school in Florida, I had the opportunity to interview with the California Air National Guard near my home here in Southern California.
Next thing I know I am flying for the Air Force and American Airlines and living my life dreams thanks to the Miss America Program. Why do I credit Miss California? For several reasons: my girl's skills had dropped dramatically after 5 years of engineering and the program really put me back in touch with that side of my persona, the interview training in second to none, and of course the scholarship money. Being in touch with our femininity not only empowers a woman at her core, it is an asset to own that in this modern world. As for interview skills; when else in life do you get to meet hundreds and hundreds of strangers and learn to converse with them, interact with them and be an ambassador to something you believe in? Finally, they made possible for me in 1 short year, the funds I needed to attend flight school….no one else was offering me that opportunity.
My year as Miss California taught me lessons that I would use during my career as a combat aviator. During the Miss America week, I was obsessed with Miss South Carolina because she was a medical doctor. I wanted the niche of the “brainy” contestant. She completely threw off my game and in the end, she was not even in the top 5. During that week, Bob Arnhym, CEO of the Miss California program, told me, “Run your own race, let Miss South Carolina chase you.” As I ventured into unknown territory in my life (being a female Aircraft Commander of a crew of men, running a flying squadron made up of the same) this advice always served me well. I did everything in my power to listen to my own heart and follow my own moral compass. Even if the crowd was going one way, I fought the impulse to follow just for the sake of belonging. I created personal tests that endeavors people and projects had to pass in order to be invited into my way of thinking and I did it all while preserving my unique gender specific attributes.
I began to also learn that beauty was so subjective. I never felt beautiful despite what everyone had always told me. Do any of us think we are beautiful? If we are self-aware, I think it is always a question mark. Miss California taught me that beauty is what you present; putting your soul and your confidence on the outside. It has magnetic effects when it is sincere and without effect. People can see through those who wear it like armor but those that wear it as their aura, draw in the masses and are truly beautiful. That is a power that a woman can take anywhere. I get up and look in the mirror and decide each day to run my own race, make unpopular decisions (that I know are right) boldly and without fear, never looking over my shoulder. Miss California gave me that intangible gift in addition to everything else that I have stored in my head and heart.
So giving back is easy. This desire to make & keep this program great is easy. Yes, it takes so much time from my family but my 6-year-old is constantly seeing her mom change the world around her for the better and sees her leading the charge for something much greater than herself. The volunteers of this program taught me this; they taught me that it is a worthwhile sacrifice and I hope that I can pass that mantle down to the young ladies and volunteers that I serve and the children that I love.
If you are nodding your head, please take a moment and sponsor our program, participate, volunteer or compete. You will be filled with the satisfaction of knowing you truly have made a difference to so many and in your own way, changed our collective world for the better.
CEO Miss California Organization