Agricultural education and communication senior Elida Moore had no idea what she was signing up for when she agreed to be a part of Miss California Mid-State Fair this past summer. A self-proclaimed tomboy, Moore had shown animals at the fair before, but had never stepped out of the Livestock Pavilion arena and onto the more glamorous setting of the pageant stage.
“I don’t have a pageant background,” Moore said with a laugh. “My neighbors, the Johnsons, got me involved in the pageant actually. I kind of wanted to do it for awhile now and she (Rhonda Johnson) gave me the added push and drive to go for it.”
With weekly meetings starting in March, four different portions of the pageant, outfits to plan and talents to develop, there was plenty of work to be done before Moore even took that first step in high heels onto the heavily lighted pageant stage.
The four sections of the pageant include the opening number, health and fitness, talent routine and evening gown. Moore’s neighbors of five years, Peer and Rhonda Johnson, helped Elida prepare for the pageant.
“We mentioned it about four months ago because we know she loves the fair and because she has an exemplary amount of character along with a goal of becoming an agricultural educator,” Peer said. “We thought that this could be a great opportunity for her to share her love and knowledge of the fair with others.”
The Johnson’s have known Moore for years and wanted her to enter the competition because they thought she would represent the Central Coast and the Mid-State Fair well. Moore exhibited the placement heifers for three years at the fair, has been a leader for Cambria 4-H and assisted in helping Future Farmers of America with some of their girls that were showing.
“She’s intelligent, funny, goofy, knowledgable about all things animal and agriculture-related,” Peer said. “She is driven to succeed while helping others. She doesn’t complain; in fact, I don’t think I’ve ever heard her complain in six years, she just cowgirls up and enjoys her life.”
Not only did the Johnson’s urge Moore to enter the pageant, they helped her with everything from head shots, talking points, dress shopping, hair styling and makeup. Peer helped Moore with taking pictures, walking on stage and with poses. Rhonda helped Moore come up with her four unique looks for the pageant.
“My wife helped her wash some manure off one day and did her hair and makeup,” Peer said. “We looked at her and thought, ‘Hey, she’s marginally decent looking when she gets cleaned up.’”
Rhonda did Moore’s makeup and helped her go shopping for the different dresses required for the opening and closing portions of the pageant.
“I have worked in the industry in Los Angeles for 23 years doing hair and makeup, so I was in charge of her look,” Rhonda said. “It’s like having your own life-size Barbie to play with and dress up.”
Not only did the Johnson’s compliment Moore’s fun-loving personality and fair experience, but also her outward appearance.
“Elida is gorgeous and she doesn’t know it,” Rhonda said. “I am a makeup artist and I see faces first. She is really fun and positive, which makes her more attractive.”
Moore not only had help with her dresses, makeup and poses but also her talent portion. At first, she wanted to do a comedic monologue talking about how she couldn’t choose a talent.
“That was kind of a running joke when I first started this. They would say you are pretty enough, but I don’t know if you have a talent,” Moore said.
Moore had experience with roping and horses but it couldn’t be displayed because of the limited size of the stage. Instead, she settled on singing because of her experience singing in the high school choir. She sang a song from Cinderella, which she worked on with her former choir teacher twice a week.
“I had sung in the choir but I hadn’t really done anything theater-wise because I was always backstage,” Moore said. “I wasn’t sure if I could sing in front of that many people. I didn’t really like the way my monologue turned out, so I just figured I would suck it up and sing.”
Moore learned how to do something else she was not comfortable with — walking in heels. She bought a pair of heels and walked around San Luis Obispo in them while shopping and doing errands.
“I learned that I could actually walk in heels, which is amazing because I am a bit of a klutz,” Moore said.
Throughout the whole pageant experience, Moore was cheered on and supported by friends, neighbors, family and her pageant director.
“My friends came and supported me in the audience once they got over laughing at me because I am not exactly the sort of girl that does pageants,” Moore said. “So they would laugh at me for the first five minutes and then be like, oh wait, you are serious. Then they would jump behind me and say let’s do this.”
Friends old and new were essential to Moore’s pageant performance. She even made a few friends along the way, the best of them being Sabrina Dunn. Dunn was crowned Miss California Mid-State Fair and is a University of California, Davis animal science student. The two bonded over the common background of never having been a part of a pageant before.
“Elida is a strange, but amazing combination of a cowgirl and a nerd,” Dunn said. “She is goofy, fun and exciting, but she is also mature and grounded. Regardless of how she’s feeling, she maintains an upbeat attitude and that positivity infects those around her.”
Dunn described Moore as an older sister figure who she became close with during pageant preparation. They helped each other get to events on time and helped each other throughout the process.
Moore won second runner up, but gained more than simply a title.
“It allowed me to make connections with other girls in the county and gain confidence in myself, especially with public speaking and getting out there and doing things that you are not used to,” Moore said.