Here's what I think is the most valuable information you can take with you in January 2013:
1. While it is a competition, do not view the other contestants as competitors.
The day of orientation, I didn't know anyone. I was nervous because I'm not a super bubbly and talkative person, and I had the stereotype in my head: that all pageant girls are "pageant" girls. I thought I wouldn't fit in, that is, until I walked into the building. I was greeted with smiles after smiles, and right away, I had met so many amazing women who are some of my best friends today! So please ladies, don't be the girl who has a one-track mind on winning because this experience has so much more to offer.
2. Don't be afraid to be you.
If you are like me, and this is going to be your first pageant, EMBRACE THAT. The judges aren't looking at how well you twirl on the stage, or how perfectly sculpted your answers are in interview. They're looking for a down-to-earth woman who can represent California by being relatable. Fake does not ever come off as relatable. You are all amazing women, so let the judges see that by being true to yourself.
3. Don't spend more than a thousand on a gown/shoes/swimsuit/etc.
The amount of money some girls put into competition wardrobe is crazy! I want you to realize that when you're onstage, the judges only have a matter of seconds to score you. Do you think they are really looking at your dress in that much detail? No! They're looking at your face, your beautiful smile, the grace with which you walk, and your confidence. I got my gown at Nordstroms, and I wore shoes I already owned with my gown because you couldn't see them when I walked. I did spend a little more on a flattering bikini that gave me support (important if you have a big cup size!).
4. Bring healthy food.
Have all natural protein bars (I love walnut, macadamia KIND bars), and other healthy snacks with you for the weekend. The food they have there is bulk quality, and not healthy! Just bring things that aren't perishable. I brought vegan protein powder, protein bars, apples, nuts, and fiber cereal with juice-box sized almond milk. You can find all of that at Whole Foods. Also remember to STAY AWAY from sodium and drink lots and lots of water!
5. Have Support from Friends/Family.
To be honest, I didn't think I would have a chance of winning or making it into the top 20 because it was my first pageant. I did it because I thought it would be fun, and would be an awesome memory. I ended up only telling my parents, a few relatives, and my best friends. I had only 4 of my favorite people in the whole world come to the Miss CA pageant, so when I made the top 20, the audience was a little too quiet. I'm a very confident person, and for the majority of my life, I've been that way; however, the difference between you're friends and family cheering and screaming your name like I had at miss USA vs crickets at Miss Cali was vast. It empowers you to feel the love coming from the audience, and makes the whole experience so much sweeter. So don't be afraid to tell people you're running for Miss California USA 2013, and get that love and support you deserve!
I hope you all consider my advice, and I CANNOT WAIT to meet you all soon!!! Good luck preparing for one of the best weekends of your life!