Jacqueline Wibowo Miss San Jose

Photo Courtesy of Larry Sacks

In the last 3 weeks since I became Miss San Jose, there’s a couple questions and comments I’ve gotten over and over again. They sound something like this:

  • But it’s your senior year, don’t you want to relax?
  • Oh, so that’s the thing where you walk around in a bikini right?
  • I like the crown. Your instagram pictures are so cute!

When people think of the Miss America program, they tend to remember only the surface level things they see on TV. To be honest, just a couple months ago, I may have asked the same questions of another titleholder.

I’ve been privileged to know quite a few titleholders throughout my life, some who started in the Outstanding Teen Program and some who have been on the Miss America stage. I always saw the beautiful social media posts – sleeping with the crown the night after you win a title, having hair and makeup done by a glamorous sponsor, getting to cut ribbons here and there for a community event. But, if that were all there was to it, I would also find myself asking the infamous question – How is Miss America still relevant in today’s society?

I have found that in just less than three weeks, my role as a titleholder has helped me truly reevaluate my values and align my goals with them. I believe that preparing for every single competition stage of Miss California is not about chasing a crown – it is about reflecting on what the best version of yourself looks like, and then setting goals over the next few months to become that you.


Many people don’t know that an interview is a part of the scoring, because it happens before the onstage part of the show. Each contestant interviews with a panel of 5 judges. Here’s a sample of questions I got in my interview:
Why did you decide to compete?
Your platform is SheEO’s – Women in Leadership, what would you say to the argument that women are just not as suited to leadership roles because of certain biological factors?
What do you think about all the recent news stories regarding sexual assault?
What should the US do about the Opioid Crisis?
What have you done in your community for your platform already?

As you can see, the questions really span the gamut – from why you would be the best titleholder, platform-related questions, to random current events questions.

I love that this is a huge chunk of our score, because every young adult will have to interview for something – whether for jobs or college. Having worked on Wall Street for the last 2 summers, I’ve personally been through my share of what some people would consider the most rigorous and selective interview processes for fresh graduates. But, I will be the first to tell you that despite having interviewed with some of the top executives in finance and Silicon Valley, I find Miss America interviews much more intimidating. I think it’s much easier to memorize technical terms and practice walking someone through your resume or answering how you would work in a team. Professional job interviews tend to be predictable.

In a pageant interview, your judges are looking to find someone who a community can both relate to and look up to, and ultimately the best ambassador for the program. This is why it is so important for a contestant to be up to date with current events, to have opinions but convey them respectfully, and at the same time be someone that could be best friends with an 8 year old girl. Preparing for these interviews requires me to think very carefully about my personal qualities and how I best want to market them. I truly think that this is a skill that many job interviews do not teach you.


Talent is my chance to share something I love with a full house. Contestants are judged on technical ability and performance, among other qualities. I’ve definitely heard people ask why Talent is a part of the scoring, stating that you don’t need an onstage talent to be a good representative.

However, I think it is so important for every individual to have something that they do just because they love it, unrelated to academics or their career. I absolutely love classical music – I’ve found that playing piano makes me happier, relieves stress, and increases my focus throughout my day. Unfortunately, when I got busy in college, it was one of the first activities I cut out of my life. My freshman year, I was lucky enough to be a part of an a cappella group, but I eventually gave that up when classes ramped up my sophomore year.

Thanks to my involvement in the Miss America organization, I’ve rediscovered my love for playing the piano, and am also motivated to schedule it into my calendar just as I would a class.

Lifestyle and Fitness

At the mention of the swimsuit category, many people in the audience – and even contestants – might squirm a bit. It’s the category that motivates comments that the program is misogynistic and objectifies women. We could spend a ton of time debating these points, but today I’d like to focus on the positive impact this category has had on my life.

Like playing the piano, health and fitness often suffers at the expense of other activities in my daily college life. There was a point in time where I wasn’t getting enough sleep and would eat mozzarella sticks at Stanford’s late night dining at least three times a week. To counterbalance this, I would sometimes skip meals. I naturally have a more petite physique, so on the outside, most people would still say I looked healthy. However, I found myself unable to focus in class and more stressed than ever.

The Lifestyle and Fitness category has given me steady motivation to work toward until June. Because I am representing a community, I want to look healthy and confident at Miss California, and to do that, I will make time for workouts every week, regardless of how busy I am. Whether or not I have a six pack by that time, I want to be proud of my progress and look confident and healthy, not sleep deprived or malnourished.

And let me tell you, from just being more cognizant of what I’m eating and fitting in a few workouts a week, I feel so much better and refreshed already.

Onstage Question

Jacqueline Wibowo Miss San Jose Onstage Question

Photo Courtesy of Larry Sacks

In this stage, contestants are given a random question that they do not know in advance, and have about 30 seconds to answer it in front of the judges and the audience. I think that a lot of people don’t know that we really have no idea what we will be asked, and do not have answers prepared in advance.

I’m not alone in thinking that this is the scariest part of the competition. After all, think about all the YouTube videos referencing “Maps” that go viral for all the wrong reasons. If you’ve seen these types of videos, I urge you to try to understand the pressure contestants are under before you make any judgments.

I think this stage prepares you very well for unpredictable situations you might face as a titleholder. Whether it’s a 4 year old or a news reporter that comes up to you, you never really know what someone might ask you. It’s great practice to know how to react calmly and give an articulate opinion on any subject under the sun.

As a senior soon to graduate, I’ve thought more and more about what the future might hold, but I’m thankful that I have some practice dealing with uncertainty.

Evening Gown

This is a contestant’s chance to feel the most beautiful she has ever felt in her life – walking down the stage in an evening gown of her choice. It’s not the dress however, that gets judged – it’s the overall impression of the girl wearing it. As a college student in the Bay Area, I often don’t dedicate enough time to self care. After all, Stanford is known for its chill culture – chill meaning rolling out of bed at 9:20 am for a 9:30 am class, sometimes in the same clothes you wore to sleep. Fun as this is, as a Christian, I truly believe that the bodies God created us with are meant to be honored and respected, to reflect our inner beauty.

Jacqueline Wibowo Crowned Miss San Jose

Photo Courtesy of Larry Sacks

Whenever you meet someone new in any setting, the first judgment they will make about you will be based on how you look. As objective as we try to be, we are all only human, and our first impressions will inevitably be affected by the first things our eyes see. People see you before you even open your mouth to speak.

I don’t mean to say that appearance is everything, or that it is more important than your internal qualities – but I do think it’s worth taking some extra time to dress and groom for an occasion – whether it is an interview or a cocktail party. Your personal style is a reflection of your personality, and I have found that taking some extra time to get ready in the morning gives me more confidence to take on the day. So, I do think it’s important for every woman to take some time to think about how she wants to create her first impression – whether that is by how she dresses or how she carries herself.

There you have it – the 5 stages of competition and why they’ve motivated me to give everything I have to improving myself in the next few months. Not to mention, I won about $2,000 at my local competition in scholarships and am guaranteed more scholarships by competing in Miss California. I am so excited for the rest of my year.

If you aren’t already, follow my journey on instagram @misssanjose_ca and my Facebook page – Miss San Jose Jacqueline Wibowo.

How Entering A Contest For A Sparkly Hat (Unknowingly) Changed My Life And Can Change Yours Too

I remember watching my hometown’s local pageant since I was a little girl and when I was 17, I entered and learned that I actually knew very little about what these pageants actually entailed. If there's one thing I've realized over the past few years that I've been involved in the Miss America Organization, it’s that you will begin to undergo a transformation into the very best version of yourself. Just by entering a local competition for the Miss America Organization (you don’t even have to win!), you will gain the following:


Jill Santos Miss Napa County graduateScholarship– As one of the largest scholarship providers to young women in the world, the Miss America Organization has paid for over half of my college education to date. I finished my undergraduate studies in 2.5 years, and this would not have been possible, nor affordable, had I not gained the scholarships from this organization. Many local preliminaries will guarantee every contestant a scholarship just for participating. If you do happen to win the title, there are even further opportunities to gain scholarships through awards, advertisement sales, placement, and more.


Jill with former Miss Napa County winnersSisters– You will meet the most incredible like-minded women who are passionate about their communities, their education, and their careers. You will meet your closest friends, find a second family. The Miss America Organization defies the stigma of a stereotypical “pageant girl” because the women I've met are some of the most intelligent, talented, and kind people I have known.


Professional Skills– Before entering a local competition, contestants must complete paperwork including a Resume and a Platform Statement, providing the opportunity to work on resume and writing skills. In addition to this, the interview and onstage question portions of competition teach us how to communicate effectively and think on the spot. As titleholders, we are required to attend public events, speaking engagements, interviews, and the like, which tests these skills even more. We are taught to communicate effectively to voice our thoughts and opinions in a professional way while still remaining personable. Participating in pageants has taught me confidence in speaking to and with people from all different walks of life. After graduating college, I was never nervous to attend job interviews, conference calls, presentations, and networking events in my professional life because of the experiences the Miss America Organization had offered.Jill Santos Miss Napa County speaks


Personal Skills– All contestants in the Miss America Organization choose a personal “platform,” a good cause for which they volunteer their time and promote in their communities. My platform is “Music Therapy for the Elderly”, a cause I choose to promote because of my passions and life experiences. In a way, this has been a “platform” throughout my entire life that this organization has allowed to come to fruition. Having a platform encourages contestants to get involved in the causes we are passionate about on a greater scale, bringing personal action and passion to community change. Your platform will allow you to increase your voice, establish yourself as active member in your community, and fuel your passion to follow your dreams. The work I have done with my platform has brought me the happiest experiences, the most creative ideas, and the hope to create my own nonprofit in the future.


Jill Santos Miss Napa CountyThere are so many reasons other why I advocate for the Miss America Organization, but these are some of the major ones that have truly transformed my life. Sure, I can stick on false lashes and walk in 5 inch heels now, but more than that, I attribute so much of my educational success, professional success, and life skills to this organization. Others who are or have been involved in the Miss America a Organization will share similar positive experiences. For those who are unfamiliar with this organization, I hope I have opened your mind, or at least offered a different perspective, to pageantry. I hope you consider getting yourself, your sister, or your friend involved in the Miss America Organization.  You will gain the scholarship, sisterhood, professional skills, and personal skills I described, and so much more. The crown is just icing on the cake.

Nothing But Gratitude and Goals- Miss North Bay

Molly Crawford Miss san diego, Molly Crawford San Diego State University

Courtesy of Hart Photography

I am an undergraduate, full-time student at San Diego State University studying Journalism and Media Studies with an emphasis in Public Relations, and a minor in Dance. I would not have had the means or courage to pursue my dream of higher education had I not taken the leap to compete in my first Miss America’s Outstanding Teen local pageant in 2010. I’m proud of who I am and who I am becoming, and the Miss America Organization is an integral part of that.

Molly Crawford Miss North BayOne of the most invigorating parts of being a local titleholder is attempting to live each day in embodiment of the Four Points of the crown: Scholarship, Style, Service and Success. College is one of the most challenging yet exciting goals I have ever set for myself. I take pride in my status as a student, remain eager to learn and be successful in my academic career. Nothing feels better than giving your school the scholarship dollars this organization provides. My personal style has evolved fluidly throughout my journey. It has become representative of where I’ve been, where I am at currently, and where I am pointing my arrow next. I am firm believer in the influence of everyday surroundings on the way you style yourself. My style projects an image of me that is representative of my adolescence in the Bay Area and my early adulthood in San Diego. My platform is called Perfect Imperfection: Body Positivity and Respect. I created this movement to inspire a culture of respect and positivity when we talk about our bodies and their differences, particularly among children and teenagers. Serving my community in this way has allowed me to contribute to the Body Positive movement. Success is something I strive for in every part of my life with each day I pursue my dreams.  

Courtesy of Hart Photography

Courtesy of Hart Photography

If I could add a fifth point to the crown, it would be Sisterhood. Beyond the scholarship and the opportunity for personal development, the Miss America Organization provides a place for people to connect and create long lasting relationships with some of the world’s best people. I have found some of the most wonderful friends in the contestants, volunteers and sponsors I’ve had the opportunity to work with and get to know. I have found so many people who inspire me to push myself, be kind and to remain grounded in my purpose. I am an advocate of empowering others due, in large part, to the people I have met through the Miss America Organization. The sisterhood is strong, influential and so very real.

Molly Crawford Dancing Miss North BayBeing a Miss America local titleholder affords women endless, incredible opportunities that are extraordinarily unmatched. There are obvious perks, like the scholarship money each contestant is awarded, the chance to make a difference in our communities, and the ability to train professional, social and emotional skills in the field on a regular basis. “Adulting” is my favorite way to put it. This organization gives women scholarship money in exchange for the chance of a lifetime. I have spent the last seven years competing in this organization because my involvement in is directly tied to the accomplishments from all facets of my life.

I am honored to be Miss North Bay 2018. Being a Children’s Miracle Network Ambassador, and an advocate for body positivity and respect is an absolute dream come true that I am fully engaged in. I am diving into this year of service with gusto, courage and so many ideas I can’t wait to manifest. Follow me at @MissNorthBay on Instagram and Facebook to keep up with my journey!

Hollins University to Provide Scholarship to Miss California Contestants

February 14, 2018
Contact: Jessa Carmack

(FRESNO, CA) Hollins University, a four-year private institution of higher education located in Roanoke, Virginia, will be joining the team of scholarship donors for the Miss California Organization.

For all ‘Teen’ or ‘Miss’ contestants that have not attended college; Hollins University will provide up to a $20,000 in renewable scholarship to any contestant in the 2018 Miss California competition who applies, is admitted and decides to attend Hollins as a first-year student.

For any ‘Miss’ contestant or transfer student; Hollins University will provide up to a $18,000 in renewable scholarship to any contestant in the 2018 Miss California Competition who applies, is admitted and decides to attend Hollins as a first-year student.

“We are thrilled to have the support of Hollins University and hope to see our 2018 contestants take advantage of the generous scholarship donation they are providing,” Patricia Murray, CEO & Executive Director, Miss California Organization.

The 2018 Miss California & Miss California’s Outstanding Teen state finals preliminary competition will take place at the Saroyan Theatre in Downtown Fresno, June 27-29. Miss California’s Outstanding Teen 2018 will be crowned on Friday, June 29th. Miss California 2018 will be crowned on Saturday, June 30th.

About the Miss California Organization:

The Miss California Scholarship Organization is a volunteer based 501c(3) non-profit organization which was founded in 1924. As the Official State Final to Miss America, the Miss California Organization has awarded more than $6 million in cash and academic scholarships Miss California Organization | since the competition made its home in Fresno in 1990. Nurturing an ideal of beauty that includes dignity, courage, intelligence, creative talent and kindness, the successful contestants demonstrate a genuine commitment to serving others. Every year the Miss California’s Outstanding Teen and Miss California contestants make significant contributions to Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals by raising funds and spreading awareness throughout the state. To learn more, visit


Instagram/Twitter: @MissCAOrg

About Hollins University:

Hollins is an independent liberal arts university dedicated to academic excellence and humane values. Hollins University offers undergraduate liberal arts education for women, selected graduate programs for men and women, and community outreach initiatives. The Hollins curriculum and cocurricular programs prepare students for lives of active learning, fulfilling work, personal growth, achievement, and service to society.

The Hollins community sustains talented students engaged in challenging study, and productive scholars and artists devoted to teaching and to the advancement of knowledge. Experiential learning, study abroad, and internships enhance the academic program. The hallmarks of a Hollins education are creativity and effective self-expression, problem solving and critical thinking skills, and independent inquiry and the free exchange of ideas.

Hollins nurtures civility, integrity, and concern for others, encourages and values diversity and social justice, and affirms the equal worth of women and men. Our university motto, Levavi Oculos, calls us to leadership and service in accord with the Hollins values and traditions.


Tiny But Mighty- Miss Bay Area

Ashley Nelson Miss Bay AreaGrowing up I have always been looked down upon… literally. My short stature has always made me feel in some way inadequate. For example, in certain buildings, the mirrors are placed too high and all I can see is the top of my head. Also, some eye holes in doors are too high for me to look through.

In addition, when people first meet me they say you’re so “cute”, because you’re so “tiny”. When I was younger I took these comments graciously, but as I became older, I wanted to be noticed for more than just my height when people first met me. I wanted to be noticed and remembered for my confidence and how personable I was, rather than just my small stature.

Ashley Nelson Miss Placentia's Outstanding TeenEntering the Miss America Organization gave me the opportunity to do so. I was a fairly new teenager coming into this program and it was around the time I truly wanted to find out who I was as a person. After holding my first title as Miss Placentia’s Outstanding Teen 2015, I gained so many qualities that boosted my confidence and pushed me to be a better representative of not only myself, but of something greater than myself. I learned that I am not just what is on the outside, but I am so much more than that. I am a strong, independent woman who has her own opinion and can stand in a room and exude an inviting essence.

Ashley Nelson MIss Bay Area 2018I’m so grateful for the Miss America Program for giving me the opportunity to find out who I am while representing the cities I love. Winning the titles of Miss Placentia’s Outstanding Teen 2015 and now, Miss Bay Area 2018 proved not only to myself of my capabilities, but also how unique this organization is. It is purely about who the women are on the inside, and shows it is not in search for a cookie cutter type. It promotes diversity and individuality, and I am honored to be part of this organization. I hope to grow even more as a woman this year as Miss Bay Area 2018 and I cannot wait for the experiences I will gain.

I know now, that I am not just a five foot girl who only sees the top of her head in mirrors, but I am a confident and successful woman, and I owe that all to the Miss America Program.  

Get to know Anaheim with Miss Anaheim, JR Nessary

Growing up in Anaheim has been one of the best parts of my life! Being able to represent and serve my hometown is one of the greatest opportunities I have ever had. Anaheim is a kind, inviting, and special city! Come along with me, in my vlog, as I have the privilege of showing you around the best city, in the best state. We will see some special places that Miss Anaheim gets to visit, and some special people Miss Anaheim gets to work with, during her year of service. We will stop by some of the world famous stadiums, arenas, and even one very magical theme park, that are all located in the heart of Anaheim. The places I highlight are just a handful of the wonderful spots that are located in the city of Anaheim. I hope you enjoy this vlog as much as I enjoyed traveling through my city to film and showcase it!
Much love, from Anaheim,
J.R. Nessary
Miss Anaheim 2018

Miss Redwood City/San Mateo County- Writing My Own Path

2My summer break at eleven years old was for lazy days spent in my room, pouring through book after book.  While other kids ran around in the sun, I traveled to far off places and went on daring adventures, saving the town, or the kingdom, or the world. Unlike real life, reading books I was a magician, a princess, a mermaid, Miss America… I could be anything. And every few weeks, when the stories ran out, there was an even more magical place waiting for me: the public library. I went in empty handed and emerged with a stack of books as long as my tiny arms, filled with everything I grabbed off the shelves on our weekly visits to the library, and a few bonus ones thrown into the pile by a kindly librarian. One of those extra books was called The Kingdom Keepers, and while I liked the dozens of other books I brought home, Kingdom Keepers was the only book I fell in love with from the first page. Seven teens in the Disney parks after dark, fighting the Disney villains who’ve come to life and are trying to take over the parks? For a Disney nerd like me, it was everything I could dream of.  

1I devoured the first Kingdom Keepers book, and over the next few years I devoured the second, third, and fourth books too. I read each one over and over again until I could finally be at the bookstore first thing the morning the next book came out, impatiently waiting for the booksellers to open the boxes of shiny new copies. In a world of middle and then high school chaos, confusion, pressure, and loneliness, the Kingdom Keepers books became my sanctuary. No matter what was going on in the real world, I had seven best friends tucked away in the pages of these books, and so I read them over and over and over again.

In fact, I read them so many times that I began to notice inconsistencies in the story, hidden in the details. Characters walking through a door twice, room locations changing, etc., things that didn’t quite add up. Even more, there were little details in the Disney parks, like dining rooms with the wrong names or an audio-animatronic’s hairstyle that wasn’t right. Things that no one would notice or know were wrong unless they’d read the books dozens of times, and unless they spent their free time reading Disney blogs and history books. But I noticed.  

So, I did what any fangirl would do; I came up with a crazy idea. Throughout my entire summer between my sophomore and junior years of high school I post-it noted every inconsistency in the series. And when Ridley Pearson, the author of the Kingdom Keepers series came to Kepler’s Books, my local bookstore, I took my books to be signed, post-its and all. And when Ridley asked me what the sea of pink and blue tabs sticking out the sides of his books was about, I told him they were inconsistencies.

4In the plot twist of all plot twists, my favorite author’s reply wasn’t ‘Wow, rude’ but instead “Wow, I’ve been looking for someone to find these for me. I just got the fifth book back from the copy editor, could you read it for me and find all of these before it gets published?”

My eyes went almost as big as the ‘surprise’ emoji, and I managed to squeak out “I’d love to!” (And later I looked up what a ‘copy editor’ was).

I got the next book in my email inbox that night, the shiny new manuscript, the one that wouldn’t be published for another eight months, the one that everyone else in the fandom was just dying to read, and now I got to. If elation, shock, and excitement could kill you, I would’ve dropped dead right there.

That night, in a matter of hours, I went from average high school student to continuity editor, and then a researcher, brainstormer, events and social media assistant on a New York Times bestselling series. I ended up a manager for the Kingdom Keepers Insider website ( and co-authored The Syndrome, a novella in the series. Ridley even wrote me into the 7th book as a character. I became a fictional character in my favorite book series! Suddenly, all my nerdiness and wasted time reading Kingdom Keepers and learning every detail about Disney was important.

More than that, for the first time in my life, something mattered. My work mattered. My opinion mattered. People actually wanted to hear my monologues about how the first audio-animatronics were invented for the Enchanted Tiki attraction after Walt Disney bought a mechanical bird on a trip to New Orleans, and that originally it was meant to be a dinner show, which is why to this day it’s the only attraction with a restroom. Knowing that the Disney Gallery is in the building that housed the Bank of America on opening day and the original vault is still there wasn’t a useless fact anymore, it was helping make my favorite books better.  For the first time in my life, I realized I had a voice.

3It changed everything for me. I became a writer, and went on to major in creative writing in college. I went from being a painfully shy kid to being comfortable talking to an assembly of school kids and chatting up thousands of people at book signings. I studied abroad in Buenos Aires and Shanghai. I interned at Shanghai Disney Imagineering. I found my way into a full-time job, at a tech company, of all places. Kingdom Keepers even gave me the confidence to start competing in the Miss America system four years later. Everything I have in my life now is because just one person (who happened to be the author of my favorite book series) showed me that I have a voice.

That’s why my platform, Guiding Girls to Write Their Own Path, is so important. Creative writing mentorship changed my life, and in working with organizations like WriteGirl, I’ve seen it change other girls’ lives too. WriteGirl pairs girls from underserved communities with mentors in creative writing fields, to help them not only learn to write well, but more importantly to find their voice. Serving as a mentor with WriteGirl, I’ve seen mentees go from shy kids to empowered women, ready to take on the world, go to college, and change their communities for the better. If women are going to change the world, we have to learn to speak up first. We have to find our voice.

But we don’t have to do it alone. We can pull each other up. Remind each other that we all have a voice. That we all have a story, and that story’s worth sharing.

After all, our voices are louder together.


Follow my year on Instagram at @missredwoodcity and @misssanmateocounty, and read more of my story at

Miss Marin County Olga Kolin- Living in the Present

Olga Kolin Miss Marin CountyI 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.

Olga Kolin Miss Marin CountyI 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.

Olga Kolin Miss Marin CountyWhen 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.

Olga Kolin Miss Marin CountyI 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.  

Miss City of Orange- Why?

18010770_10203024332407231_2074085485363103744_n“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?

19274942_10203242354097637_3221708515752808125_nIt 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.

Eileen crowned Miss City of Orange

Eileen crowned Miss City of Orange

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.

Miss Garden Grove- Where Sash Meets Science

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Volunteering at USC-affiliated Children's Hospital of Los Angeles

When I share that I am pursuing a career in medicine while wearing a sparkly accessory (albeit one that is perhaps not the most inconspicuous), I often get a few raised eyebrows. For some, it can be understandably difficult to reconcile the two and imagine how two seemingly different worlds could mesh together. But having traversed both paths, I can attest that the two worlds are inextricably linked and each arena compliments and enhances the other. Having gone from a complete outsider to now a staunch supporter of the mission and values of this organization, I can share firsthand the impact the Miss America Organization has made on me.

Sarah Bui Miss Garden Grove
The Miss America Organization is founded on four principles, also known as the “four points of the crown”: Service, Scholarship, Style, and Success. This multifaceted foundation enabled me to be a better public servant and has equipped me for a lifelong devotion to service in medicine. The medical vocation is most notably marked by a relentless commitment to advocating for others. I am most grateful to the Miss America Organization for allowing me the opportunity to do exactly that each and every day as Miss Garden Grove. Not only am I privileged to be a voice for my hometown at large, but I am also blessed to meet community members from all walks of life. From the precious kids at our Children’s Miracle Network hospitals to the devoted members of our Garden Grove community service groups, every child, parent, and public servant has shaped me by sharing their story. I met a woman who shared how the Pink Door Salon, our incredible local (and state!) sponsor, had changed her life by helping her heal and regrow her hair after experiencing alopecia areata symptoms. By taking the time to hear her journey and healing process, I better understood how we as healthcare providers can empathize with and advocate for our patients. Connecting with the Garden Grove community continues to mold my vision for what it means to serve, care, and advocate well both at the individual and community scale.

The very people that I am privileged to serve are the ones who have generously supported my academic journey and helped me to attain my Bachelors and Masters degrees from the University of Southern California in three years. In addition to awarding scholarships, this organization has given me the tools to help me hone my public speaking and communication skills in professional and diplomatic settings.

Steve Jones, the Mayor of Garden Grove, is also an USC alum!

Steve Jones, the Mayor of Garden Grove, is also an USC alum!

Success looks different to each individual. Personally, I experience success in investing and sowing into relationships – from my Garden Grove neighbors and friends, to the people I meet from all over the world. Each of us have the ability to sow into relationships and lift up those around us, with or without a title. That being said, it has been an honor to have a platform to mentor and empower the youth in my community, and to learn from those who have gone before me.

The past few years have remarkably transformed my outlook and vision of what it means to truly have a servant’s heart. I can’t wait to see what growth, challenges, and blessings lie ahead in this coming year.



Excited to share this journey with you all – join me on Facebook and Instagram at @missgardengrove to stay in touch!


Yours truly,

Sarah Bui

Miss Garden Grove 2018