Jillian Smith, who entered as Miss Yosemite Valley, was the winner of the Miss California 2017 competition. Courtesy of Jillian Smith.

Cal Poly journalism senior Jillian Smith was crowned Miss California 2017 in Fresno on July 1. This title qualifies her to compete in the Miss America Competition hosted in Atlantic City on Sept. 10.

The prize for winning the Miss California title includes a $25,000 scholarship and opportunities to meet people in communities across the state. 

Smith said the Miss California title will provide her with numerous networking opportunities within her field of study.

“Being Miss California will open doors for me, I’m sure,” Smith said. “I am a broadcast journalism major and in the seven days since I’ve been crowned I have already been contacted and interviewed with more than six media outlets, so I think this year will open doors I wouldn’t have thought possible before I even graduate.”

According to the Miss California Organization website, the winner must represent a world “where values, knowledge, communication and elegance reign.”

During the week of competition, 46 women participated in interviews with a panel of judges comprised of past pageant contestants and women who hold high positions in companies and organizations. Further, the contestants competed in swimsuit, formal wear and talent competitions. For her talent, Smith played the piano and performed  “White Water Chopsticks” by Calvin Jones. 

Smith was inspired to participate in pageantry after watching women compete as a young girl. She started competing at 16 and holds a number of titles.

Smith was Miss Sacramento County’s Outstanding Teen in 2011 and placed top ten in previous Miss California pageants. She competed during the 2016-17 school year in order to qualify for the Miss California competition.

Smith said her time in the Miss America Organization has helped her develop strong communication skills and shifted her focus. 

“In high school, it’s easy to go to your parents to help you solve your problems, but being away at school really forces you to work things out on your own which is something that is super helpful when you’re a titleholder in the Miss America Organization,” Smith said.

Winning Miss California was only half the battle, Smith is currently preparing for the Miss America pageant. She has alluded to the rigors of preparation beyond the pageant.

“While there are obvious things I do to help prepare me for competition like going to the gym, practicing my talent and staying up to date on current events, those are things that I feel like I should be doing anyway,” Smith said. “For me, it really is just a way of life and preparing to be the best version of yourself that you can be when you walk into that interview room or onto that stage.”

In the coming weeks Smith will meet with sponsors, youth organizations and children’s hospitals to promote Miss America’s national platform with the Children’s Miracle Network. She will also promote her personal platform, the “dude. be nice” project that encourages kindness, gratitude and inclusivity.

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