The Art of Ambition and The Man on Lombard Street

Your endurance will be tested,

All your limits will be pushed,

You will learn to fall 7 times and stand up 8, and

You will achieve something you never thought was possible.

Would you think I’m talking about pageantry?

Hi! My name is Caelin Nieto and I am so proudly representing Central California as Miss Central California Regional at Miss California this year.

418434_395691093789716_1530767195_nI was seventeen years old when I won my first title in the Miss America Organization and I will admit, I had no idea what I was doing. I competed at Miss California 2012 with the most wide of eyes, being surrounded by over 50 of the most beautiful, kind, and intelligent women I had ever met. It was surreal. I had never felt more thankful than in that moment when I realized that I was so lucky to of even be identified within that amazing group of women. I knew that being a part of Miss California Organization was something that I wanted to devote my life to. Not only because I dream of being Miss California one day, but because the women and volunteers that I am surrounded within this organization truly inspire me on a daily basis to be a better human, and remind me constantly that dreams are only crazy if you don’t chase them.

After taking one year off, in 2014 I decided that it was time to get back in the game and begin competing. I felt so passionate, and I felt so ready. That’s where things got tricky. I didn’t win the first pageant of the season that I competed in, then I went on to not win the second, and then went on to finally not win the third. There was only one pageant left in the season and I wasn’t sure what I was going to do. I was crushed. I thought to myself that maybe it was time to accept that this wasn’t in the cards for me. I felt defeated, and I almost gave up. In an attempt to clear my head, I went to a baseball game in San Francisco (Go Dodgers) that following weekend and let the hustle and bustle of that city consume me. As I walked (or more like weaved) down Lombard Street there was a man at the end of the street preaching to anyone who would listen. I stayed for a moment listening at a distance. I heard him say with conviction in his lungs, “Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t. Especially don’t let the person telling you that you can’t – be yourself. Life is yours to live. Never, never, quit.” He was a complete stranger. I don’t know his name, I don’t know why he was there, I never even really got that good of a glance at him – but that man changed my life. I took a moment and stared off into the distance (cliché I know, I know) and saw the busy city, the businessmen and women on their phones, the couple in love, and the student walking home, all minding their own business building their futures. I realized in that moment that we are in charge of our own lives. We have the power to obtain our wildest dreams, we just have to run at them fearlessly and wholeheartedly. I realized that I needed to thank this man, he was the reminder I needed to keep pushing forward. I wanted to run up to him and thank him and tell him that those words had moved me in a way I wouldn’t of thought possible, and I wanted him to know he had been heard. I looked around and he was no longer there, I searched the crowded streets but he wasn’t anywhere to be found. It was like he had never existed. I don’t know the secrets of the universe or if certain people cross our paths by some grand design – but I do know that at that moment he was on that street for a reason, and so was I. So hey Man on Lombard Street, if you just happen to be a fan of Miss California and you’re reading this, thank you because I never got the chance to say it.

10015083_873236576035163_1383015248_nI competed in my fourth and the final pageant of the year, and won! I went to Miss California 2014 as Miss Gavilan Hills 2014 with a fire in my soul and an overwhelming determination to prove to myself that I could, and what do you know? I did! I advanced all the way to Top 12, and I will reluctantly admit that I still cry every time I re-watch the video of being called down last into the Top 15 by Miss America 2013, Mallory Hagan. More than anything, being a part of the Miss America Organization this year has taught me so more than I could ever fathom. I have changed, I have grown, rejoiced in my successes, and dealt with my failures all with the discipline that I simply cannot give up on myself or the dreams I have made for myself – after all I have a friend on Lombard street that told me I can’t!

I understand that so many people could and will still look at this organization as something superficial and say my favorite (sarcasm) line: “It’s just a pageant” and yes, it is a pageant, but this pageant has changed my life. Being a part of this organization has completely debilitated my ability to settle for mediocre, I now understand that to be successful you must reach for more, and you must always strive to be better than the person you were yesterday. Pageants diminished my ability to give up, because I now understand that just around the corner from your latest failure is your newest success (and a little old man in San Francisco to remind you of such in my case). I’ve also learned to, as Taylor Swift said best “Shake It Off” and move forward. I grew up through this organization, I have three shiny crowns displayed in my room and every time I see them I am reminded that I am a part of something larger than myself and that dreams don’t have to be unreachable, with enough hard work, passion, and ambition anything is possible.

Push yourself

Believe in yourself


Be Yourself


And all will fall into place.


With love,

Caelin McKenna Nieto

Miss Central California Regional 2015