The Miss Tustin pageant may be a venerable local tradition, but even traditions can evolve. For the first time in its history, this year’s competition welcomed young women from cities other than home turf.
“We wanted to expand the boundaries within which we could recruit contestants,” Director Jen Kohlenberger said.
Miss Tustin leads to the Miss America contest, so Kohlenberger reached out to cities that don’t offer competitions on that track – including neighbors Irvine and Santa Ana.
“Tustin Unified has schools in those areas, and there are great colleges and universities there,” Kohlenberger said. “Those young women now have an opportunity to win scholarship money, as well.”
On Saturday night, Feb. 23, 11 college students will vie for for the title Miss Tustin 2019. Talents on display will range from baton twirling to poetry reading.
The event takes place 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Beckman High School Performing Arts Center, 3588 Bryan Ave., Irvine. Tickets are $20.
MEET THE CONTESTANTS
Ana Karina Benitez, 20, of Santa Ana, is majoring in criminal justice at Coastline Community to become a police detective. Her talent is color guard: “I danced in the Miss Tustin pageant the past two years and felt like I needed something more unique. So I hit rewind and took it back to high school, remembering my color guard skills.” What makes her nervous about Saturday? “The judges.” Why participate for the third time? “Two and one-half years ago, I was involved in an almost fatal collision. When I woke up, I made a promise to myself to never have any regrets. We never know when we’ll be gone.” (Courtesy of John McGuire)
Karina Cardenas, 22, of Cypress, is majoring in journalism at Chapman University to work as a television producer. Her talent in the competition is monologue: “I have been obsessed with Ted Talks since the age of 11. I am also a journalism student who is strong about women’s rights and the #metoo movement. I decided to put those two things together and show off my public speaking skills.” What about the big event makes makes her the most nervous? “Completely wiping out in front of the whole audience in my five-inch heels.” (Courtesy of John McGuire)
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Veronica Chapman, 19, of North Tustin, attends Cal State Fullerton to become an elementary school teacher. Her talent in the pageant is singing: “I had delayed speech growing up and would never talk. My grandparents bought me a toy mic and I started singing. I was diagnosed with autism at 3 years old. Doctors told my family I was going to be dependent on them for the rest of my life. I proved them wrong.” She also participated in Miss Tustin last year: “I had an amazing experience and made lots of memories.” (Courtesy of John McGuire)
Katerina Colada, 22, of Rancho Cucamonga, is majoring in biological sciences at UCI to become a physician or pharmacist. Her talent in the competition is modern Filipino folk dance: “It’s wonderful how diverse our contestants are, and I am proud to represent the local Filipino American community. We all bring something different to the table.” What about the event makes her the most nervous? “Would you believe me if I said ‘walking in heels’? I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve stumbled over my own two feet during rehearsals.” (Courtesy of John McGuire)
Jocelyn Garcia, 20, of Tustin, is majoring in accounting at Cal State Fullerton to become a CPA. Her talent in the pageant is rap vocal: “I can’t sing and I definitely can’t dance, so I thought this would be something fun to do on stage instead.” She added: “I don’t feel like I’m competing against the other contestants, but that we’re competing against ourselves. Competition day is just a bunch of amazing women on a stage killing it and being the best they can be.” (Courtesy of John McGuire)
Gabrielle Getz, 18, of Mission Viejo, is majoring in nursing at Saddleback Community College. Her talent in the competition is Polynesian dance in recognition of her Samoan heritage. “My mom encouraged me to join this pageant,” she said. “I had always viewed pageants as the stereotypes they are said to be. Once I had the opportunity to really see the meaning of this organization, it changed my perspective. My purpose in this competition is not beauty or talent, but to work towards something bigger than myself.” (Courtesy of John McGuire)
Tiffany Mia Huerta, 18, of Tustin, attends Santa Ana College Fire Academy to become a firefighter. But even though she can “handle tough situations,” Huerta is “nervous about walking in heels” on the night of the pageant. Her talent in the competition is singing. “The contestants are some of the nicest people I have ever met,” she said. “It doesn’t seem like a competition with them – we’re all just making amazing memories with each other.” (Courtesy of John McGuire)
Anyssa Nuñez, 19, of Tustin, is majoring in forensic science at Pasadena College. Her talent in the competition is baton twirling: “If I mess up and drop my baton, it is very noticeable. I am just hoping my hands don’t get too sweaty! I try to practice at least four hours a day. I’ve been doing this sport since I was 8 years old. It isn’t hard to be friends with the girls I’m competing against for Miss Tustin , because I have done that for so many years at my baton competitions. It also helps that the girls are amazing and easy to get along with.” (Courtesy of John McGuire)
Jennifer Obando, 20, of Irvine, is majoring in business administration at Irvine Valley College with the goal of starting her own skincare line. She will perform a fan veil dance at the pageant: “I’m neither a professional nor avid dancer. I only recently picked up my talent, for its unique beauty. I’m essentially treating this as a way to get out of my comfort zone.” What about the event makes her the most nervous? “The fact that I’ll have to improvise a thoughtful-yet-concise answer for the on-stage question is nerve-wracking.” (Courtesy of John McGuire)
Keenan Pasztor, 20, of Tustin, is majoring in sociology and dance at Chapman University to become a therapist and Broadway dancer. Her talent in the show is tap dance. “Participating in Miss Tustin has taught me to think critically about world events and politics and to form my own opinions,” she said. Even so, she confessed, “I am most nervous about the on-stage question.” However, going up against other contestants is not an issue: “Nobody is very competitive or cutthroat, and all of the girls are so sweet.” (Courtesy of John McGuire)
Wendy Rincon, 19, of Tustin, is majoring in biology at UC Riverside to work as a pediatric oncologist. For her talent, she will recite a poem she wrote addressing “an important issue that can best be highlighted through the power of words and the voice of poetry.” Because of her “inability to dance,” her “greatest fear is the opening number: “My dancing style consists of simply shaking my head.” She has made lasting friendship with other contestants: “We have learned that we are all beautiful and perfect, strong and bold. We all have our own sash and crown.” (Courtesy of John McGuire)