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.
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.
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.
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.