Talent Presentation at the Miss America Pageant

Sunday, January 2, 2011


Hi everyone! Wow... it sure has been a long time since I have written! I just got home from attending Arianna's wonderful going away party and I felt this was an appropriate time to write. It was SO great to see everyone at the sendoff- I have missed you all! It astonishes me that it has been an entire year since I was packing and getting ready to head to Miss America! I am so excited to for Arianna to experience this and I am ready to scream, yell, cheer and celebrate as she shines on that stage!

I was asked my several people to do an update blog and also to share about the "secret" trip Nikki and I took last year and I have failed to do so several times but I figure better late than never!

Last October Nikki and I went to South Carolina for a total of 40 hours for fittings of my Miss America gown and onstage question gown, made by the incredible Gregory Ellenburg. I wrote a journal of our crazy, whirlwind trip and here are a few quotes to give you a glimpse of what the adventure was like.

Last night at 10:45pm Nikki and I boarded the plane to South Carolina... before we got on we were stopped and told our seats were changed to the VERY back row and we no longer had isle seats! Once we got to the end of the gangplank, they took our bags away from us! Also, Nikki got rubbed down and searched extra and I did too on the second flight. I wonder why the airline staff always thinks I look suspicious? Perhaps they wonder why I am carrying a crown on plane? After one layover, we arrived in Charlotte and drove in the pouring rain to Greenville. Then we had quite the adventure driving around and around in circles trying to find Gregory. Nikki and I both were laughing so hard we could barely contain ourselves and I found myself wiping tears from my eyes. After meeting Gregory and his staff and finally getting to see my gown in person, I was relieved and excited. "This is my MISS AMERICA gown," I thought to myself, "This is crazy!" I am so very thankful to Gregory for his generous sponsorship and the shoes that he gave me are fabulous! The next day we stopped and met my brother (who lives in North Carolina) and his wife for a quick lunch before heading to the airport. Before we knew it, we were back in California! And now I suppose it is just time to "hurry up and wait" for the gown to be finished! Miss America in 69 days!
Before we boarded the plane!
Freeeezzzing! Nikki and I at this cute river in the downtown area of Greenville

... Needless to say, it was an eventful trip and I am so very grateful that I had Nikki there with me :)

Several of you have asked me to keep up with my blog and I apologize that I have not done so more often. Let me start off by saying that last year still feels like a dream... I honestly forget that I was ever Miss California until someone reminds me... There is one little girl who attends the school in the building where I work who loves to shout "Hi Miss America!!" when I walk by. She is a reminder to me about the incredible year that I was fortunate to experience... I think someday soon I will have to break the news to her that I am no longer Miss California! ;)

Life has been busy and somewhat "normal" for me this fall. I started graduate school at Chapman University in Orange County and I am loving it! I have always loved school and learning- right down to the pencils and notebooks and yes, even the homework! I am currently working on my masters in teaching degree along with my multiple subjects credential and I couldn't be happier. I was convinced during college that medical school was my future but was continually challenged during my year as Miss California when I understood the importance ofpersonal connection. It was the children who I wanted to get to know and build relationships and I didn't feel I could do so while operating. I can't wait to motivate and teach young people in the future and I am thrilled at the opportunity to work with the "little people" as Bob always used to call them :)

I finished my first semester with a 4.0 and after two weeks of break, I am ready to go back to school! I also continue to work at the Crystal Cathedral as the Director of Children's Ministry. I have had a few opportunities to dance, performing in a local Nutcracker production with Tustin Dance Center and look forward to performing in the Pulse show in Orange County at the end of January. I am so thankful that I continue to have opportunities to perform and I have every intention of dancing as long as I am able!

Perhaps one of the most exciting events that has happened since passing on the crown was welcoming my first nephew into the world at the end of August. I may be a bit biased, but he is the most adorable little guy I have ever seen! My brother and I are worried about when we have children in the future because he has set the "cuteness" standard very high! My oldest brother Robby and his wife Heather came to visit us in November with their son Ethan. And, I have to tell you, being an Aunt is likely the best job in the world!

Anyways, enough rambling from me... I hope that gives you all a little update on what I have been up to! I would love to hear from you about all of your adventures, families and updates in life! Feel free to email me anytime :)

In closing, as Miss America approaches I urge you to send positive thoughts/support/prayers out for Arianna as I know how stressful this time can be! I always said that preparing for Miss America week was like preparing for 30 different proms.... with all the shoes, earrings, dresses, outfits, etc. Not to mention the pressures of interview, talent, swimsuit, etc! Arianna is a talented, beautiful, energetic and charismatic young woman and I am SOO excited to watch her rock the Miss America stage! Make sure you all tune in on January 15th!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

The Passing of the Crown

Congratulations to Arianna Afsar, Miss California 2010!

Well, as promised, here is the summation blog of my last week as Miss California! Sorry it has taken me a week to write, I got home and granted a wish with the Make A Wish Foundation on Monday and had several events at work this week!

Preliminaries started off with a bang on Tuesday night as we pulled together a fantastic show from just a few short days of rehearsals! I have to say that the contestants were unbelievably flexible and they all had such a great attitudes! I was so impressed. The hostesses, and Patti and Bernie were full of laughs, 4th of July decor and hugs, which we all so appreciated! It was certainly different to be on the "other side" of things, and not to have the stresses of competing on my mind... I was able to spend time with my favorite backstage ladies and catch up with them! My roommates Vera and Chelle certainly kept me in good spirits throughout the week with our nightly comedy hour! We were so tired that we thought everything was hilarious and we had a lot of really great laughs! I already miss my roomies!

Each Preliminary night was filled with lots of dancing for me! I was so excited that I was included in the swimsuit and evening gown production number and even the princess dance, which I truly think stole the show. I had an absolute blast! Thank you Janet and Rob for working so hard to pull off a great show.
Swimsuit production number, "Too Darn Hot"

It was an honor and a privilege to announce each night's preliminary awards in evening gown and talent. Below are pictures from each night. (Oh, and I forgot to mention a little bit stressful too!) Stephanie Baldwin and Ashley Newton (Miss CA 2001 and Miss CA OT 2001) did an excellent job co-hosting together and I really enjoyed sharing a dressing room with the two of them and Jacquelynne Fontaine!
Miss Tustin, Sarah Salazar and Miss Ventura County, Ebony Taylor
Preliminary Talent and Preliminary Evening Gown Awards
Miss Yorba Linda, Sharanya and Miss City of Orange, Rachel
Preliminary Evening Gown and Talent Awards
Miss Culver City, Laura and Miss Briarwood, Jasmine
Preliminary Talent and Preliminary Evening Gown Awards

**I am missing one picture from one preliminary night, I am so sorry!
But congrats to Miss City of LA, Ruth and Miss Oakland, Holly
Preliminary Evening Gown and Talent Awards

Throughout the week, Monica and I had the special pleasure of attending several princess events!! It was so fun to see them so much throughout the week and to be able to get to know them while decorating cookies, rehearsing the dance, or during the official princess crowning! My favorite event though, would have to be the princess pajama party! Thank you Mary for the adorable crown pajamas! I think there are definitely some future Miss CA's in this bunch!

They are pro's at the "funny face" picture!
My favorite part of the princess dance!

Congratulations to Monica Stainer who made me and all of California very proud as she was a wonderful representative for our state and was truly and OUTSTANDING teen! Also, to Shelby Sinkler, California's Outstanding Teen 2010, Congrats!! We will all be rooting for you next month!!

Each day I became more and more ready to pass the crown on to the next Miss California. It was almost as if each day I got to know the contestants on a deeper level and realized that the crown was certainly in good hands, no matter who was to wear it. Each night as I was announced and walked down the stairs, I thought back to the first time when I stood on the Miss California stage two years ago... looking at the current Miss California and wondering if I could ever do that... wondering how it was that she was so charismatic, poised, elegant and well spoken... thinking to myself that she was what I wanted to be.

I seemed to be handling my emotions and sadness quite well... until the parent orientation meeting on Friday, that is. Then, when Bob spoke to the parents and explained what would happen if their daughter became Miss California, it was as if last year flashed before my eyes in a split second. I re-lived the meetings, the moving, the preparation process... and realized how much I loved it all. I got up to speak and began to cry (actually... it was more like "hyperventilate" as I never really have been able to breathe when I cry) and I tried my best to share my experiences with the parents. I may or may not have said this, but regardless I would like to say it here anyways. The one thing that is so unique and astonishing to me is that no matter who is crowned on finals night, the entire state of California comes together to cheer her on. We, as the Miss California Organization and supporters, are all now Arianna's cheering section... for Miss America, and throughout her entire reign. I am so grateful that everyone came alongside me to encourage and support and I am excited to do that now for our new Miss California!

Congratulations to all of the young ladies who competed last weekend! It truly is an accomplishment to have made it to the state pageant! I hope you all enjoy the rest of your year in your local communities! To EVERYONE who helped make the show possible, thank you!! It takes many hostesses, "bistro" ladies, seamstresses, executive directors, state staffers, choreographers, drivers, producers, audio technicians, etc. to put on the show, we appreciate all that you did!

Also, I have to say that one of the highlights of my week, was after the pageant on Saturday night when all of the former Miss CA's in attendance (at this point, I was a former too!) gathered on stage to take pictures... there is a deep bond that I think we all have since we all had the same job and similar life-changing experiences. I was honored to be with such amazing women! Thank you all for your warm welcome into being a former!
Stephanie Baldwin, Veena Goel (and baby!), me, Rebekah Keller-Negrete, Jackie Geist, and Jacquelynne Fontaine


One last thing... by request, and as promised, I WILL write about my trip to South Carolina in my next blog :)

Also, I just saw that Arianna posted her first blog! Woohoo!

Enjoy more pictures below...
Thank you Bob for an incredible year!!

The lovely ladies of my family!
Thank you PPA for my crown box!!
Woohoo!! Gala!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Interviews, BBQs and Rooftop Fireworks: Updates from Fresno

Happy 4th of July!! And Happy Birthday Grandma Lou!

The past two days have been full of interviews, rehearsals, parades and fireworks!! The contestants have started their rehearsals, learned their walking patterns and reviewed their opening number and production numbers! Yesterday we started off the morning with the first set of interviews and I led off the group with a "warm-up" interview. We have a great judging panel this year!!

In the early evening we were graciously invited to the Lester home for dinner sponsored by the Fresno Kiwanis Club. The home was phenomenal and we all enjoyed being outdoors and getting out of the hotel for a few hours :) I had a lovely dinner with several contestants who are such sweethearts. It is so fun to get to know each of these girls and meals are a wonderful time to connect with them and to learn a little more about each other! After ice cream, we headed back to the hotel and Monica and I learned our dance numbers for this week.
All 56 contestants plus the Kiwanis Club!
Aren't they stunning??

This morning was a veryyy early start as Monica and I left the hotel at 6am to drive to Redwood City for the 4th of July Parade! This was my very first appearance last year and my last one this year, so it was a strange feeling to have come full circle! Thank you George Doolin and Paul Sanfilipo for being wonderful drivers today! Monica and I had a great time waving, blowing kisses and greeting parade go-ers in our classic Mustang convertibles! After the parade we stopped for lunch on our way back to Fresno... (I had changed into sweats for the car ride home but Monica was still in her gown and didn't have any other clothes with her) Well, when we went to get out for lunch at "Casa De Fruta" (basically in the middle of nowhere) Monica leaned over and said to me, "Well... this is going to be quite an entrance!!" and we couldn't stop laughing about how funny it was that she was in a fancy evening gown and a fruit stand and a restaurant... So of course, we had to document the occasion. She was a trooper and we just pretended that it was her birthday!
Krista, Miss Redwood City/San Mateo County ED and I before we started the parade!
Monica sporting her evening gown at Casa De Fruta!

We got back and headed straight back to rehearsal... We jumped, turned, flipped and skipped our way through several hours of rehearsal and took this picture afterwards when we were nice and sweaty :) These dancers are so talented!

Tonight all the contestants went to the rooftop of the parking garage to watch the fireworks! It actually was really fun because I had a chance to talk with several girls who I hadn't connected with yet and we all got to just sit and be silly and relax! At one point, the girls bursted out into patriotic songs! It was awesome! And they even got Bob to lay down in a circle to take this silly picture! Too fun! I am continually impressed at the poise and confidence of these girls and how intelligent they all are... but also at how fun they can be!! I love well rounded women and it is so refreshing to see the new friendships that are being formed and how these contestants are growing and changing!
The best picture of the night!

Well, I am getting sleepy so that's enough for now. Tomorrow is another day of rehearsal and a princess pajama party! I am looking forward to seeing my family, all the EDs and supporters on Tuesday for our first night of preliminary competition!! I will continue to update throughout the week! I hope you all had a safe and fun 4th of July! Goodnight!

Days until I crown Miss CA 2010: 6 days (AAhhhh!!!)

Quote of the day:
- Kahill Gibran

Friday, July 2, 2010

LIVE from Fresno!

Hi everyone!

Just thought I would write a quick update about what has happened so far for those of you who are at home wondering!

On Wednesday I attended the Anime Expo in downtown Los Angeles at the Staples Center and Los Angeles Convention Center. It was an amazing event!! There were 4,000 people in attendance as I walked the red carpet and then spoke at the opening ceremonies!! I even got to meet members of very famous Japanese Rock Bands and took pictures with AKB48 (a Japanese band made up of young girls from Japan). Over the weekend, there will be 40,000 attendees at the Expo! It was an honor to be invited!

Today all the contestants went to the Fresno Civic Center to present gift to the Mayor of Fresno. The girls all looked wonderful, decked out in their red, white and blue attire! Each girl briefly introduced herself and presented a token of appreciation that somehow represented her. It was a hot day but the girls were troopers posing for pictures in the heat of the day!

Tomorrow interviews begin! More updates to come throughout the week!

Quote of the day:
- Wayne Dyer

Days until I crown Miss CA 2010: 8 days!

Monday, June 14, 2010

The final months.

Hi everyone!

I left off after my appearance at the Los Angeles Veterans Hospital which was a fun whirlwind of day! The next morning, Chelle and I went to Long Beach to visit the Long Beach Veteran's Hospital along with Miss America and her touring manager, Karen. The hospital in Long Beach was beautiful!! And Rich, who works in the public relations department gave us all a wonderful tour of the facilities. I learned a lot about the Veterans Hospital system and we got to visit with several patients including one of the few Medal Of Honor recipients from WWII who is still living! We also had a great time at lunch where the Chief of Staff, CFO, Director and other important hospital personnel were on hand to answer questions and share a little bit about what they do and why they do it. It was very interesting!
He was SO sweet! And he even chased Chelle down the hallway to give her a kiss on the cheek before we left! Too cute!

After the hospital tour, we headed back to the hotel and attended an event for the AUSA. I had a wonderful time chatting with military personnel and getting a chance to thank them for their service! They even had a pasta bar at the reception! (I had never seen that before and just loved the idea of having every possible ingredient at your disposal to make your own custom pasta dish!)

The next morning, Miss America and I attended a lovely tea at Biola University that was an appreciation ceremony for volunteers of the Family Readiness Group. It was a way for them to say thank you to their volunteers for their dedication throughout the year to help veterans and their families. It was a warm, tenderhearted event and several important generals were in attendance.

Friday evening I attended the Long Beach Army Birthday Ball. I had heard about this event the very first weekend that I was crowned Miss California and had been looking forward to it since June 2009! I must say that it not only lived up to my expectation, but far exceeded it. There were hundreds of people there, including very decorated military personnel and generals, active duty soldiers, veterans, and even America Ferrera and Wilmer Valderamma! (They were there to promote their new movie "The Dry Land")
America Ferrera and me
Wilmer Valderamma, Miss America, me and the director of the movie

The evening was filled with entertainment from Miss America, a Bob Hope impersonator (whom I taught a soft shoe dance to!) and a sneak peek of "The Dry Land". After several recognitions and toasts, we danced the night away to a live band! The evening was wonderful; everything from the decor, to the impressive and accomplished individuals who were in the room made the night one that I will never forget. Thank you SO much Felicia for inviting me and for putting on such a fantastic event!
"Bob Hope" and I did a little soft shoe together... he was quite the dancer!

With Alan and Drew, two wonderful men who made the evening so much fun! Thank you for your service! (Please keep Drew in your prayers, he is in Afghanistan now)

I was home for a week and returned to my job working in Children's Ministry and getting ready for our upcoming Vacation Bible School program and then had a performance this weekend with a new contemporary ballet company that I joined called "A:live Dance Company" http://www.alivedanceco.com/
With a few of the women in the company!
Then, the next week I had the pleasure of attending the Orange Senior Center's Golf Tournament in Placentia! It was a wonderful afternoon and Kathi Baldwin was my traveling companion... it was so fun to catch up with her! The weather was absolutely beautiful and I greeted golfers on the green and got to mingle with various people who worked for the city. I even saw the mayor of Orange who immediately spoke to me about my performance at Miss America! She was so very sweet! They had golfers bid to sit at a table with me and raised $1250 just from that! (I was very flattered) The event was held to raise money for the Meals on Wheels program that is put on through the community center, what an incredible and important organization!
With the Mayor of the City of Orange

This past week has been a whirlwind tour of Washington DC, New York and Finally Canada. If I ever make it home (I am currently at the airport delayed) I will have been in 7 states and 2 different countries in just one short week! Crazy!! I had the unique privilege to go on a private tour of the White House and it was wonderful! The only people we saw while in the White House were Sacha, Bo (the dog), Michelle in the motorcade and the security guards... it was AMAZING!

I went to Canada for the grand opening of the Garden of Hope and Faith walk in Brockville, Ontario Canada at Centennial Road Church. I spoke and delivered the message for the dedication ceremony on Saturday and was interviewed this morning in the church service along with my parents. Last night we even got to go on the 1000 islands cruise! It was absolute beautiful! Thank you so much to everyone in Brockville for such a warm welcome and such a great trip! I will definitely visit Canada again, hopefully sometime in the near future!

With some of the young girls at the church
My family and the Phillips family... thank you for being such wonderful hosts!!
The Bolt Castle (we saw this on the cruise)
With the amazing and energetic Bethany Exhalt Choir
The new statue that was unveiled "Guardian Angel"
It was raining!!
With Megan, such a sweetheart!
Being interviewed by Bruce Wylie

Now as I head home, it is with mixed emotions as I switch my brain to get ready to leave for Miss California 2010. One year ago today, at about this time, I was sitting and talking with one of my friends backstage and I remember telling her, "Isn't it crazy to think that tonight one of us will be Miss California?!?! I just can't imagine that!" Then, much to my surprise about 7 hours later, I was the girl with the crown on my head. And my life would never be the same.

Believe it or not, I am home for two days and then have two more appearances before I crown the next Miss Cal. so I will continue to blog while in Fresno and hopefully will be able to post some candid pictures for all of you at home!!

Days until I leave for Miss CA 2010: 2 days

Quote of the week:

"A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." - Chinese Proverb