This is not the first Miss California appearance for Cristina Bequer, a Fresno native who was Miss Blythe 2014 and Miss Culver City 2015.
She was even a teen contestant in 2013.
There would have been more appearances but Bequer decided to focus on her veterinary studies at UC Davis.
“I took a break because of my school. I had been a titleholder before and I knew all of the responsibilities that came with it and I didn’t think I could do it,” said Bequer, who now works full-time at the UC Davis Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital.
She did try two local pageants after graduating last year, but didn’t advance. Instead, she attended the Miss California Competition as a spectator last year to visit friends who were competing.
“I decided, ‘I really miss this,’” said Bequer, who became a contestant this time around.
Miss Desert Southland was the last of four efforts to win.
“It was the last pageant of the season,” said Bequer, who grew up in Blythe where her father, Al Bequer works as a correctional officer. Her mother, Rosa, is a college professor at Palo Verde College.
Not all competitions are the same, she said.
“I think that with each competition I learned something new, something to critique, something to improve on,” said Bequer. “If you don’t learn anything from your failures, then what was your point?”
Bequer, who will turn 24 in July, wants to use the pageant as a vehicle to grow her platform of getting children to volunteer. She created Cristina for Kids – www.cristinascaringkids.com – where children can find links to volunteer opportunities in their areas.
“I’m trying to reach the entire state with my organization,” said Bequer. “We’re not only making the volunteer process easier for kids who want to volunteer, but for those who don’t know how to get started.”
She also wants to recognize kids “who are going above and beyond in their communities.”
Bequer began volunteering when she was 12 years old. “It really made me realize at such a young age what I’m capable of doing. Volunteeering is not just for grownups.”
When the Miss America organization decided to eliminate the swimsuit from the competition, Bequer understood. She had a friend who entered a local pageant this year specifically because she would not have to compete in a swimsuit.
“I understand the swimsuit change because I can see the aspect they are trying to get more girls to compete,” said Bequer. “It’s nice to get more contestants than we would have in the past.”
Bequer, however, still works at maintaining a healthy life.
“It really hasn’t changed for me,” she said. “Whether swimsuit or not, I’m still going to go to the gym and work hard.”
Meet Miss Desert Southland Cristina Bequer
Education: Graduated from UC Davis
Family: Parents Al and Rosa Bequer, one younger brother
Talent: Piano, ‘Moonlight Fantasy’
Social impact initiative: Cristina’s Caring Kids, which promotes volunteerism among children
Interesting facts: An avid hiker with a goal to visit every national park in the country; works with dogs, cats, horses, alpacas, reptiles and more; was one of two students selected to represent California at the Prudential Spirit of Community Awards.
Pageant schedule: Wednesday interview, onstage interview and evening wear; Thursday talent.