Fourth time a charm for new Miss California. ‘I wasn’t here to just win the crown,’ she says

The new Miss California is a study in perseverance.

She’s Miss Culver City Eileen Kim, a 22-year-old from Orange who was competing in her fourth Miss California. Kim was crowned Saturday night at the Saroyan Theatre in downtown Fresno.

“Last year I actually didn’t even make the finals,” she said. “I didn’t make the semi cut and I remember thinking to myself, ‘What’s next? Is this something I can continue to pursue?’ Because I wasn’t sure, but I knew there was a plan out there and that there is faith and I decided to compete again. Who knew that ... it’s kind of a comeback. One of my favorite quotes is, ‘Every step back is made for your comeback,’ and I’m here to represent that tonight.”

Jane Kennedy, Miss Marin County, was the first runner-up.

Along with the title, Kim was awarded a $20,000 scholarship, which includes $5,000 from the City of Fresno.

The Chapman University 2017 graduate goes on to the Miss America competition on Sept. 9 in Atlantic City, N.J. A Miss California title holder hasn’t won Miss America since 1983.

Maybe Kim, who is fluent in English, French and Korean, will break that string. She performed the violin, her favorite instrument to play since she was 3 years old. She played Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto third movement.

“I realized my true intention,” she said. “I wasn’t here to just win the crown. I was here to make a difference in our community. And the moment I realized I could not let that go I had to re-compete. I had to try to earn the title to make that much more of a difference.”

Preliminary competition at the Saroyan Theatre was held Wednesday and Thursday nights.

The companion Miss California Outstanding Teen competition was held Friday and Miss Santa Clara Isabella Mills won that crown.

Anthony Galaviz writes about sports for The Fresno Bee. He covers the Oakland Raiders, high schools, boxing, MMA and junior colleges. He’s been with The Bee since 1997 and attended Fresno City College before graduating from Fresno State with a major in journalism and a minor in criminology.