Jan. 10, 2013
By Kimberly Rivers, OVN Correspondent
The Miss California USA pageant is not just about beaded gowns and perfect bodies. The public may choose their favorite based on the swimsuit segment, but the contestants know it takes a lot more than a nice pair of legs to make an impression on the judges.
Mariah Jemmings, an 18-year-old resident of Upper Ojai vying for the crown, said, “I was surprised, in a good way. I didn’t realize there is so much emphasis on your personality, on what kind of heart you have.”
She was inspired to enter the event, she said, because she’s always wanted to be a role model to young girls. “Even if I don’t win, the pageant gets my name out there to reach people … I want to be a public figure helping to organize benefits, raise money … to help people. I’d like to work with groups trying to end bullying.”
When she participates in Miss California USA this weekend in Pasadena, it will be her first experience with pageants. “I’m afraid that I’m going to be asked a question and I’ll freeze or won’t be able to answer,” she said. “I’ve been researching pageant interview questions to try to prepare, but they could ask me anything.”
Along with the experience and opportunities to benefit others that participating in the pageant brings, Jemmings would “love to get to go to more modeling and fashion events. Become part of the show.”
Jemmings, originally from Montana, moved with her parents to Upper Ojai a year ago. “I am loving Ojai, the wilderness and the beauty of nature. I can get to Los Angeles easily when I need to. It’s the best of both worlds,” she noted.
She is currently attending Moorpark College, where her focus is music and dance as she works toward a performing arts degree. She also plays piano and guitar. “I write songs for the piano. I find it easiest to write songs in a time of struggle. It is my way of expressing how I feel,” she explained. “The message of my songs … is that there is light at the end of the tunnel, you can get through this.” A song she wrote and performs, “Dancing in the Rain,” can be heard on www.youtube.com.
Jemmings will be among 228 other young women competing for the title of Miss California USA, and will be judged on three categories, all equally weighted: interview, evening gown and swimwear. The winner moves on to represent the state at the Miss USA pageant in June, and also receives a yearlong employment contract with the Miss Universe Organization that includes travel and speaking engagements around the world. This year, the pageant has received attention for having the first transgender contestant vying to represent the state of California.
Visit www.misscaliforniausa.com to find out who won this weekend’s competition.