Miss California contest back in Fresno

The Fresno BeeJune 22, 2013 

For some, the desire started with watching beauty pageants at a young age while twirling in front of the TV.

For others, it was being the newbie who ended up taking home the crown.

No matter their start, 61 women from all over the state will battle to be the one crowned Saturday as Miss California.

Seven of those women won't have to travel very far to Saroyan Theatre.

A look at the local Miss California contestants with ties to the central San Joaquin Valley:

Miss Fresno County Elizabeth Anne Farr

Farr, of Bakersfield, will be a fifth-year business entrepreneur major at California State University, Fresno and is a Delta Gamma sorority member.

She plans to have her vocals fill Saroyan Theatre during the talent portion of the competition and her platform is service for sight.

Farr, 22, was born in Los Angeles, moved to Guadalajara, Mexico when she was 4 and lived in Bakersfield for 15 years, where she graduated from Garces Memorial High School.

Farr said she didn't expect much when competing in her first local pageant — she ended up winning.

"I was just gonna give it my all and see if I like being on stage in front of people," Farr said.

Miss Clovis Jenny Tormey

Tormey, 22 and a recent graduate of Fresno State, has lived in Clovis since third grade and participated in competitive cheer for Fusion Cheer and Clovis Elite.

The Miss Clovis competition was Tormey's first pageant, and it came as a surprise when she took home the crown.

"I just went in there expecting a good experience, a learning experience at the most," she said.

The Buchanan High graduate wants to pursue a master's degree in marketing, but not just yet: "I'm going to take next semester off to figure out where life takes me."

Tormey, a singer, will take the stage with the platform of integrating arts into education.

"I believe with the arts, music and dance, it really develops a whole child," she said.

Miss Tulare County Alisha Ginsberg

Ginsberg, of Visalia, is one of the youngest contestants and also one of the newest.

The Miss Tulare County Pageant was Ginsberg's first.

Ginsberg, 18, had never seen a pageant before.

"I felt like such an oddball in the whole group, I was one of the only newbies," Ginsberg said.

Ginsberg, a recent graduate of El Diamante High, will start at Loyola Marymount University in the fall and study psychology.

Her platform is embracing the special needs child and her talent is dance, which she has done for 16 years at Dancers Edge.

She grew up dancing tap, jazz and lyrical, but decided to perform pointe, a technique of classical ballet, in the Miss Tulare County Pageant — which she had never performed.

"I just taught myself on YouTube," she said.

Ginsberg said she did it to challenge herself and will be performing pointe in the Miss California Pageant.

Ginsberg said she looks forward to representing her county and getting to know the other contestants.

"I don't really know what to expect, which is fun," Ginsberg said.

Miss Central Valley Tayler Wolfe

Wolfe, 20, said she was inspired as a child by the Miss America organization.

She began her pageant career three years ago and this year was her first win.

"I had worked so hard to be able to achieve that moment," Wolfe said.

Another incentive for Wolfe to be in pageants was the scholarship opportunity.

"When I started college I needed a way to pay for those big financial obligations," she said.

Wolfe, a senior liberal studies major at Fresno Pacific University, graduated from Immanuel High, where she was varsity cheer captain for three years and active in performing arts.

Wolfe was born in Visalia and has spent her whole life in Cutler.

After college, Wolfe plans to get her master's in education, her teaching credential, become an elementary school teacher and then a principal.

Wolfe said she looks forward to showing what she has worked so hard on during the competition.

Wolfe's platform is Every Monday Matters, an organization dedicated to promoting volunteerism and service.

Her performance is "Gimme Gimme" from the musical "Thoroughly Modern Millie."

Miss Central California Regional Prisca Shiralian

This is Shiralian's third and last appearance in the Miss California Pageant.

Shiralian, 23, won her first pageant, Miss Fresno County, in 2009, then Miss Delta Valley and is now Miss Central California Regional.

Shiralian's platform is valuing disabled children.

She is also known as the Invisible_sister on Twitter. She said she created the account to tweet motivational quotes for those who don't have a sibling to go to for advice, she said.

Shiralian has more than 800 followers.

Shiralian just graduated from Fresno State with a master's in business administration and is considering getting a doctorate in business management.

"I'm gonna play that one by ear," she said with a chuckle.

Shiralian has worked with her dad, an entrepreneur, since she was 15.

Shiralian got her master's so she could be her dad's right-hand, she said.

The Bullard High graduate has been playing piano since she was 11 and started composing at 13. She will perform one of her compositions from high school in the talent portion of the pageant called "When My Heart Sings."

"All of my compositions have a story to tell," she said.

The composition is Shiralian's story and is about following your dreams with a conviction.

One of Shiralian's favorite parts of being in pageantry is inspiring young girls.

"You just get to teach them that it's possible to follow their dreams," Shiralian said.

"It's rewarding to be able to be a role model."

Miss Kings County Bailee Lyles

Lyles, 17, is another one of the younger contestants who just graduated from Lemoore High and will start at West Hills College in the fall.

She plans to one day be an elementary school teacher "because I love kids and kids love me."

Her talent is dance, which she has been doing for 15 years, and her platform is mental illness awareness because she herself has been mentally ill for 21/2 years. Embracing this platform is the reason Lyles began doing pageants.

"It's very important that mental illness gets recognized and that I give a voice to the silence," Lyles said.

Lyles has obsessive compulsive disorder, depression and anxiety. She moved to Lemoore when she was 3, and said she looks forward to performing on stage and wearing pretty dresses.

"I just love walking around and looking pretty," Lyles said.

Miss Fullerton Salisha Thomas

Thomas, 21, was student body president at Bullard High and will be a senior this coming year at California State University, Fullerton.

This is her seventh pageant but first Miss California competition, Thomas said she loves the glamour, wearing dresses and getting help paying for school.

"It's a win-win," she said.

She hopes to make the top 15 and be able to sing "Easy As Life" from the musical "Aida" in front of an audience.

Her platform is spotlighting children with disabilities.

Thomas performed in shows at Roger Rocka's dinner theater including a leading role in "Dream Girls." She now works at Disneyland as a lead vocalist in a new show, "Mickey and the Magical Map," but looks forward to returning to Fresno for the pageant.

"Coming home for this competition is really coming home," Thomas said.  

  Miss California week

Sunday: Rotary Club of Fresno will host a reception at Pardini's (Shaw and Van Ness avenues in northwest Fresno) for the Miss California contestants at 6 p.m. Tickets are $30 for adults and $15 for children. Reservations can be made at (559) 453-2404.

Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday: Preliminaries begin at 7 p.m. at Saroyan Theatre in downtown Fresno

Friday: The crowning of Miss California's Outstanding Teen. Evening begins at 7 p.m. at Saroyan Theatre

Saturday: The crowning of Miss California. Evening begins at 7 p.m. at William Saroyan Theatre.

If you go: Tickets can be purchased at the Fresno Convention Center box office or by calling Ticket Master at (559) 485-8497. Tickets range from $38-$53.


Miss California's Outstanding Teen Pageant

What: A pageant with a similar layout to Miss California for girls 13-17 years old.

Valley ties: Miss Central Valley Chelsea West, El Diamante High School; Miss Clovis Mikaela Harris, San Joaquin Memorial High; Miss Fresno County Emma DenBesten, University High; Miss Kings County Tiffany Richardson, Lemoore High; Miss Los Angeles County Kirstin Bangs, Clovis High; Miss Orange County Hannah Huyck, Clovis High; Miss Tulare County Riley Stockton, Central Valley Christian High


  By the numbers

This will be the 21st Miss California Pageant held in Fresno and the contest contributes $750,000 annually to the city, according to the Fresno Convention and Visitors Bureau.

In addition to the crown and moving on to compete in the Miss America Pageant, Miss California also will be awarded an educational base scholarship of $12,000 in addition to whatever she has earned in the competition.

More than $6 million has been given in scholarships since the organization began in 1924.

The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6371, email to:qwestern@fresnobee.com, or @Quinn_Western on Twitter.

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