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Miss Napa County: Darkness to Light

Hazel with her sister titleholder, Miss Solano Arielle Sumilhig

Hazel with her sister titleholder, Miss Solano Arielle Sumilhig

Hi guys! My name is Hazel Payne and I am honored to have just been named Miss Napa County 2015. Many times people often think that us “pageant girls” have it all; the looks, the smarts, the seemingly “perfect life”. Many times though, that is not the case, and my life was anything but that growing up. I am writing this blog to give you insight on me, my life, and my mission for change.

The reason I started pageants is I fell in love with all you could do as a title holder. Your crown truly is your microphone, and there is so much opportunity to make an impact. Fast forward to 2013, I was crowned Miss Vacaville 2013 (USA system). I knew that in my year I wanted to make the biggest impact I absolutely could, I would stand behind my platform and spark the conversation that has been long brushed under the rug.

IMG_0042My platform is Darkness to Light: End Child Sexual Abuse. This platform hits home to me because I am a sexual abuse survivor. I can remember saying to myself at as early as six years old that one day someone would know my secret. I kept that secret until I was 18 years old (I am now 22). I knew I wanted to make this my platform because I wanted someone to hear my story and find the inspiration to speak up and tell someone.

So there I was lying in my bed one night and the idea came to me: I would create change. I would start a petition. Last February, I had started a petition on change.org that was directed towards Vacaville’s city council. My intentions were for the council to require any organization that works with kids to have sexual abuse prevention training among their staff and volunteers. The petition gained a rapid 200+ signatures in just under a couple weeks. The movement got the local media attention, and CBS 13 News, News 10, The Daily Republic, Vacaville Reporter; Vacaville Magazine etc. all had coverage on it. Fast forward a couple months, and I had the leaders within Solano County at my door. People from Police Chiefs, Fire Chiefs, Superintendent of Schools, Teachers, Counselors, Therapists, Mayors, Councilmen members, etc. all wanting to know more about what I was trying to do, and how they could help with change. So, the idea grew from a local city push, to a county wide want quite quickly. In August of 2014 I was finally at a place where I could present to the county of Solano about the mission. I spoke to about 100 leaders of Solano County on the training I hoped to soon adopt within these youth organizations. I was even featured in PublicCEO.com about what I was trying to do in Solano County.

I am what is called a Certified Facilitator (the first one in Northern California at that) for the organization called, Darkness to Light –End Child Sexual Abuse. (Fun fact: Former Miss America, Mallory Hagan also supports this organization as well) I receive no compensation for it, but rather, I am facilitator because I find it completely necessary to educate other adults on how to protect our children. Darkness to Light is who I completely support, and encourage receiving training from. Their curriculum is short (about two hours), to the point and as someone personally tied to the subject, truly gives an accurate depiction of the effects such crime has on the victim. But you leave feeling inspired, and empowered to use the knowledge you just gained to help end this crime in your work area and personal lives. My role as a facilitator is I am able to personally come and train others as Stewards of Children, and provide you the education on how to recognize, react and respond responsibly to child sexual abuse, and give them the tools to help prevent it. The sad statistic is 1 in 10 kids (reported cases) will experience this horrible crime before they are 18. And unfortunately, no town is exception to this. Some of you might be personally tied to this matter in some way as well. But by being proactive, my hope is to bring that statistic down.

Since last February, I have helped to train several organizations and more will join them soon. To me it is not about the crown, the sash, or getting to wave in a parade, it’s about the impact you make. I do this with or without a crown on my head, and I know I will fight for this as long as there is someone needing hope. The plan is to adopt a law that would require such education in youth organizations and places. It is in the works as I have several state officials wanting to help support it. No child should ever have to live in a life of fear. I know this isn’t the conversation people want to hear, but it is one that we need to hear. It’s time to have a change in policy. This change would be an incredible step for not only our state, but this country. I do it for the little girl asking herself right now, “why me”. I do it for those who cannot find inspiration in themselves. “One day I want someone to look at me and say, because of you I didn’t give up”.

Smoothie Bowls with Miss San Diego

Hi everybody! It’s Diamond and I am back with another video. I have been seeing smoothie bowls EVERYWHERE on social media the last couple of months so a couple of mornings ago, I decided to try it for myself. It was really yummy and pretty filling.
My platform – “Healthy Life, Happy Life” – is about promoting Physical, Emotional, and Social health and good nutrition is a big part of being physically healthy. Give it a try and I hope you enjoy it :)

Inspiring Self-Love

Carley-Ryckman-Miss-Sierra-NevadaHello there! Before I get started, I just wanted to introduce myself, my name is Carley Marie Ryckman and I am Miss Sierra Nevada 2015. If you want to follow my year, check me out on Instagram at @misssierranevada or my website: www.misssierranevada.com

You haven’t heard from me on this blog yet because…I just couldn’t figure out what to write about. And then, a few days ago, my 4 year-old niece Remy handed me the topic on a silver platter. So, thanks to Remy, here I am.

I am aunt to 6 nieces, ranging in age from one to eighteen. I absolutely adore them. I am constantly in awe of how unique, beautiful, funny, and lovely they each are. Hannah, Haley, Louisa, Remy, Ellie, and Norah are my world. Some of my nieces live close to me but Remy lives across the country.

Thanks to technology, we FaceTime pretty regularly. Sometimes for nearly an hour (or more). Other times, just long enough for her to realize her law school student of an aunt is much less interesting than her spider(wo)man costume and that picture she is coloring. Quite frankly, on those days, I can’t blame her.

Carley-Rycman-Miss-Sierra-Nevada-2Just the other day, Remy was showing me her Monster High School doll that my parents sent her for Valentine’s Day. This doll had purple skin and bright, BRIGHT red hair…and maybe cat ears? Trying to be funny, I said something like, “Wow, Remy! Look at her! What would you do if I looked like that? Would you take me to the hospital?” Her response: “No, my silly Carley!!! I would not take you to the hospital! I would think you were so beautiful. SHE IS BEAUTIFUL!!!”

Those words out of that giggly little girl set my mind on fire. Articles, studies, videos, documentaries flood social media and the internet at large: apparently we as a society are sending our girls the wrong messages…about everything. But are we really? Or are we doing something right? …because Remy just told me her purple doll with crazy hair and animal ears is beautiful, and later, the most beautiful doll she has ever had. Yet I’m pretty sure Remy isn’t striving to be purple with cat ears. And even if she was, she would feel beautiful about it. Although I may not see these six very often, as their aunt, I strive to do everything in my power to make sure they know that there is at least one person out there (silly aunt Carley) who thinks that they are beautiful, talented, smart, funny, creative, loved…because they each are in their own unique ways.

I think it would be safe to say that the world my nieces are growing up in is quite different than we’ve ever seen before. Undoubtedly, this comes with both positives and negatives. Technology allows them, before they can even fully read, to be able to access a wealth of knowledge. At the tap of a screen, by pressing my picture, they can talk to and see their aunt who lives in an entirely different time zone. However, negative ideas and images are just as easily accessible.
Carley-Rycman-Miss-Sierra-Nevada-3I would argue that the world is currently pushing towards love, acceptance, and equality. My nieces will likely, I hope, grow up in communities that are more diverse than I’ve ever seen before. The “Ideal American Family” is changing. Daily, on social media, I come across articles about acceptance, love, and beauty. About the “real woman”, the “not photoshopped woman”, the “this is a beautiful woman” because of x, y, and z. I’ve been tagged (6 times) in the “20 beautiful women challenge”. Every single time, I think about my nieces. To me, they reflect the larger contingent of young women we as titleholders (really, we the world at large) come into contact with each day. What I want for them is what I want for our world as a whole.

I am the aunt to the little girls mentioned. Not their parent or teacher. I don’t see them everyday. I am someone who has been around as they’ve grown up as a playmate or a pool buddy or a “grown up” who lets them play in her jewelry…sometimes. Someone who knows how to play board games and who will sing and/or act out Disney movies with you at the top of her lungs. Because I’m not a parent, I can’t claim to have it all figured out but here is what I have decided.

As members of the digital age, there is a message that we have the responsibility of sending to our girls through our face-to-face and digital interactions. I hope it is the same message my nieces take away from both their times with me and watching me live my life.

You are beautiful: Inside and outIt does not matter if you are purple or green or black or white or…You are beautiful. YOU are beautiful. Although society often views beauty as something on the outside, it starts from within. No amount of makeup or jewelry or surgeries will change your beauty. While the images you are seeing might reflect something entirely different, you are just as beautiful without any makeup and that black eye from soccer practice as you are when you’re all dressed up and headed out the door to prom. I’m not kidding.

Along with that, love your body—eat right and stay active doing something you enjoy but have that birthday cake. You should never deprive yourself. Some people who love their body have curves, other people who love their body are stick thin. No one should make you think that your body isn’t perfect just the way it is. If you are active and maintaining a balanced diet, you are not “too skinny” and you are not “too fat”.

Carley-Ryckman-Miss-Sierra-Nevada-4You are enough—there will be days where you feel like you just can’t do anything right and if you had to choose today, your career ambition would be laying in your bed in a ball. That being said, you are good enough, strong enough, smart enough. Life isn’t always easy but you have what it takes.

You can do ANYTHING—you are blessed to live in a time where women have more opportunities than ever before. I for instance, can go to law school and become a lawyer. That used to not happen. However, the fact that I can be a lawyer or one of my female friends can become a doctor or a website designer doesn’t make it less okay to be a teacher or a seamstress or anything else. We have choices and we should freely and openly embrace them. It might not always be easy to “do anything” but if you want it badly enough and put in the work and the time (sometimes for a very long time), it will be yours.

You should be YOU, unapologetically—The media gives out a bunch of ideas about the way “people” say you should be to be beautiful, smart, successful, whatever…You should be yourself and like who and what you like. It is okay to like pink. It is okay to hate pink. Wear basketball shorts. Cut your hair off. Wear a cute dress. Grow your hair out. Who you are, what you look like, who you love, what you love, what career path you choose, does not define your worth. Feel beautiful, be happy.

Thank you for reading my post! I hope it gave you some food for thought from a very silly aunt of 6 incredible young ladies who inspire me to be my best self everyday.

2015 American Pistachio Growers Conference

Catch up with Miss California 2013, Crystal Lee, and Miss California 2014, Marina Inserra, as they share stories from their respective trips to China with our sponsor, American Pistachio Growers!

Show Some Love on Valentine’s Day

Bree (at right) with her mom and sister

Bree (at right) with her mom and sister

Before I get into the real reason for this blog, I just wanted to introduce myself and say thanks for stopping by our page! My name is Bree Morse and in January I was fortunate enough to be crowned Miss Orange Coast 2015. I’m excited for the year that lies ahead of me and to have the opportunity to share my experiences with you (you can follow me on Instagram at @missorangecoast)!

Valentine’s Day is soon approaching, and whether or not you have that “special someone,” there is probably a part of you screaming “Great. What do I do now?” Most likely, there’s also part of you hoping that an admirer will send you a special delivery of a 5lb box of See’s Candy. At least I’m guilty of both of these thoughts. In all actuality, Valentine’s Day was not always associated with secret admirers, flying babies with a bow and arrow, and excessive amounts of confectionery hearts. Originally a religious holiday, it wasn’t until the 1300’s that the holiday became associated with romance. In the 1840’s, along came mass produced Valentine’s Day cards that would soon establish February 14th as a prominent consumer holiday. I can’t imagine that they had the One Direction valentines at that time, but the tradition of letting someone know that you care about them has carried on ever since.

Don't forget your favorite Valentine-themed clothes!

Don’t forget your favorite Valentine-themed clothes!

For as long as I can remember, Valentine’s Day has been one of my favorite holidays of the year. Every February 14th my sister and I would wake up even earlier just to have our mom French braid a heart into the back of our heads as we wrote out valentines to our classmates (One year I had Lisa Frank cards with matching pencils. At that point I thought for sure my life was made). After leaving the house with the perfect hair-do, it was off to school to pass out your notes of admiration then to see what you received in return. There was nothing better than the feeling of untying the yarn holding closed your craft-time mailbox to see kindness and compassion of your peers spill out onto your desk (the candy and pencils weren’t bad, either).

To this day, I cannot overstate the importance of making the holiday special for those you care about. My mom doesn’t French braid my hair in the mornings, but on that day I still find every single heart-adorned accessory and clothing item that I own to show my love for Valentine’s Day. So this year, regardless if you’ll be going to a fancy dinner with your Valentine or if your special someone is your cat (let’s face it, my cat Stanley is quite a catch), challenge yourself to go out of your way to let someone know that you care about them. It’s a kind gesture as simple as telling someone they look nice, that they made you smile the other day, or even giving them that prized Lisa Frank pencil. Although the 5 lb box of candy will definitely not be turned down, it’s the essence of Valentine’s Day that makes it so special – to love, and be loved. Who could pass that opportunity up?!

All my best,
Bree Morse
Miss Orange Coast

The Pygmalion Effect

The Pygmalion Effect
The phenomenon whereby the greater the expectation placed upon an individual, the better they perform.

Page 0    Children are gifted with an incredible innocence and a clandestine view of the world but, somehow, as these children grown older these gifts are lost. Filled with love, hope, desire, and a limitless capacity to dream, children take in life experience like sponges and begin to build the lens in which they view the world one moment at a time. Sometimes we don’t always remember that it is us who shape this lens and the world in which children view it, and it is not a responsibility to be taken lightly.

As a child, my mom and I lived in a small apartment in a seedy part of town. We were very low income and, during that time, my mother worked three jobs just to afford to live there. She sacrificed everything for my education and, as a toddler, my mom gave me only educational games – toy stethoscopes, doctor’s kits and even purchased my first microscope when I was seven. She enrolled me in piano, clarinet and violin lessons, I studied graphic design and computer programming at age eight and swam competitively everyday, hoping that my developed talent might one day earn me a spot at Stanford. Everyday, my mom told me that ‘education would be the key to my freedom’ and I have lived by those words ever since.

I never believed I was any different from my classmates. I only knew that while they were complaining about eating vegetables for dinner, my mom and I went to McDonalds for 10-cent hamburgers that we froze to eat throughout the week. But, when I was in elementary school, I became the lucky victim of a social experiment that utilized the power of positive thinking in what is now termed as The Rosenthal or Pygmalion Effect. In this afterschool program, teachers pooled a selection of both advantaged and disadvantaged students and told us that we were ‘gifted’. We had the opportunity to skip class to go on special fieldtrips and take special classes that allowed us to push our limits of thinking beyond the classroom. Looking back, I don’t believe there was one child in our group that did not graduate high school and continue towards a life of success, and I know now that this was because we were told that we could.

Page 0(1)Another definition of the Pygmalion Effect states that it is a type of self-fulfilling prophecy where, if you think something will happen, you may unconsciously make it happen through your actions or inaction. Let me be the first to tell you that this effect is 100% tangible and true. Believing that you CAN accomplish something will open more doors than you could ever think possible. Somehow, a little girl who grew up in a studio apartment in a bad part of town became a published author, a UC Davis graduate, a pianist, a world traveler and the director of the Children’s Miracle Network Second Life Organization throughout Northern California – all because someone believed in me.

Looking back, I know that I was a truly blessed child as I was given every opportunity to succeed. But, on top of that, I was surrounded by people who believed that I could succeed. Unfortunately, not every child is so lucky. The adult world places stigmas on different social groups, limiting their dreams and desires to activities society deems fit. Whether it be age, culture or gender, children often find themselves categorized and their futures determined before they’ve ever had the opportunity to choose. As a woman in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields, it seems like finding my place in the workforce is a constant battle against social stigma. Though society has come a long way in 50 years, remnants of this still remain as we often find ourselves fighting to prove our worth in fields where we are still the minority.

Here in lies the reason I find the Miss America Organization to be so incredible. Not only to we support STEM initiatives, something that is truly near and dear to my heart, but we also encourage women to pursue their childhood dreams and provide the platform to make this possible. As competitors in this organization, we are celebrated and encouraged to follow our hearts as doctors, astronauts, art teachers, computer scientists, politicians, mothers and home keepers. A title gives us the motivation to become the best version of ourselves that we could possibly be and to continue spreading this message by tirelessly serving our communities. From the moment we are crowned, we somehow become a beacon of light and a person of influence to children throughout the country. We are given the incredible power to change and shape the lens in which these children view the world and it is up to us to give them the power to accomplish the great things they dream of for themselves – through the power of positive thinking.

Ashley Ott
Miss City of Sacramento 2015

Miss California Marina Inserra’s Onstage Question at Miss America

Thursday, September 11, Marina competed in the preliminary onstage question portion of preliminaries. Watch below as she shares her passion for Breast Cancer Awareness!

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Miss California Marina Inserra in Preliminary Evening Gown

Tuesday, September 9, Marina competed in the preliminary evening gown portion of preliminaries. Watch below as she rocks the runway in a red and crystal gown courtesy of Jovani!

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Miss California Marina Inserra in Preliminary Swimsuit at Miss America

Tuesday, September 9, Marina competed in the preliminary swimsuit portion of preliminaries. Watch below as she rocks the runway in a hot pink bikini courtesy of Catalina Swimwear!

Special thanks to Miss California’s official fitness sponsor Core Arts Pilates and the official swimwear sponsor of the
Miss America Organization Catalina Swimwear!

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Miss California Marina Inserra’s Preliminary Talent At Miss America

Tonight, Wednesday, September 10, Marina competed in the preliminary talent portion of preliminaries. Watch below as she sings “Bring Him Home” from Les Miserables!