There she was, on the Saroyan Theatre stage as she had imagined in 60 previous local pageants.
It was the evening wear preliminary competition in the Miss California 2019 Competition, and Miss Anaheim Hills Valerie Alcaráz had met a consultant in Los Ángeles with a simple direction: “I’m your canvas.”
So, on the evening of the first day of the 2019 competition of a pageant celebrating its 25th year in Fresno – and 95th overall – the 25-year-old double major at Fullerton State stepped onto the spotlight ... and fell.
“It wasn’t like a little trip. It was down on both knees,” said Alcaráz after the pageant.
No problem. She remembered the words of her first pageant executive director: “It doesn’t matter how you fall, it’s how you get back up.”
Before you could say Miss Congeniality, Alcaráz – who actually won that title for the second consecutive year – was back on her feet.
“Because all I could think of was, I fell. I feel on national television in front of millions of people,” said Alcaráz. “The best way to come out of it is just to laugh it off and move on.”
Three nights later, Alcaráz was named one of the 12 finalists for the crown.
Her jaws dropped when she heard her name called as the last of the 12 finalists.
“I think my expression said it all,” said Alcaráz. “I was in tears. It was indescribable.
“We say that our ultimate dream comes true when we get to stand on the stage, but to actually hear my name called in the top 12 after 12 years and 60 competitions of never winning, and then my last year I make the top 12. There’s no words!”
Alcaráz’s journey in her second Miss California pageant didn’t come easy. She had to compete and win her fourth local pageant to earn a ticket to the big dance.
Once there, she made her presence felt. She won the Hostess Award.
In a poll of the 41 hopefuls, Alcaráz was voted “most likely to be the next CEO of Miss California.”
“I’m hoping, after my reign, to come back and serve on a (Miss California) board and maybe move my way up because this organization has changed my life,” said Alcaráz. “And I hope I can be at the top tier one day and help some girl like me.”
Fellow competitor, Miss Anaheim Jazmín Ávalos also made the top 12, and finished fourth runner-up in the pageant won by Miss Culver City Eileen Kim.
“I made the cut! It was a lot of fun,” said Ávalos, a 22-year-old graduate of Fullerton State who made her fifth trip to the state finals (third time in the Miss pageant, and twice in the Teen competition).
“I’m very honored to be standing next to so many incredible women,” said Ávalos. “I can’t believe I got to hold hands with some of the best of the best.”
Ávalos plans to return to graduate school, get her degree and become a teacher. She is still eligible to return to Miss California, which sets 25 as the age limit.
This year’s pageant was the first without the swimsuit competition.
That change, said Ávalos, wasn’t drastic.
“All you can do is do the best you can do regardless of what the platform is,” she said. “I always have felt that that this organization has given me a platform to speak on things that are important to me, such as my social impact initiative of ending substance abuse.”
“A lot more emphasis was put on talent this year,” she said. “They told (the pageant judges) even though they took out the swimsuit, they were still looking for somebody who had that same mental, physical and emotional health.”
Kim, the talented violinist, will head to the Miss America pageant, which will be aired Sept. 9 on the ABC network.
Kim, on her fourth try, claimed the Miss California title and $25,000 in scholarships.
First runner-up was Miss Marin County Jane Kennedy, followed by Miss Orange Coast Molly Crawford, and, Miss University Heights Elizabeth Sartuche.
In addition to Ávalos and Alcaráz, other Latina contestants were Miss Capitol City Sacramento Marissa Honey-Plata, Miss Desert Southland Cristina Bequer, Miss Merced County Gaby Muro, Miss San Joaquín County Ambrosia Lobo, and, Miss Silicon Valley Alyssa Vásquez.
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