Let’s Get Physical…Physical!

I’ve always been physically active for as long as I can remember: I played basketball (spraining multiple fingers), ran on the track team (in brutally cold weather) and had a passionate love for fast pitch softball (up until my concussion). Sports and eating healthy have always been part of my life so as I grew older and eventually moved out into the “Real World,” making time for exercise and whipping up a fresh meal was nothing ever considered out of the ordinary. When I found out I had been selected to participate in Miss California Latina, my first thought was Sponge Bob Sqaure Pant’s home, “Bikini Bottom,” knowing that of course with any pageant comes along that portion of the competition.

As mentioned in a previous post, I will be wearing my Senior prom dress so that should tell you I haven’t really grown since high school (though I still can fit into 8th grade clothing items but that’s a whole other blog post itself). For the past 10 months, I’ve been doing my regular workout routines however, to be completely honest, I’ve recently kicked up my workout a bit. You see, I’ve always eaten anything and everything I wanted because I knew I’d “work it off later.” Yes, I was (and am) the type of girl to go on a 7 mile run and come home and eat raw cookie dough without a slight of care. Though this lifestyle is fun and worry free, I knew I’d have to make some small dietary changes for the pageant.

So for these past two months, I’ve been trading in cake for protein bars and organic juice for fresh squeezed lemon, grapefruit and ginger mixed flavored water. I’d be completely lying to you if I said I haven’t had a sweet or two…or too many to count *guilty smile*, within these months. Psychologically yes, I get down on myself thinking I just messed up but then again, I truly think about it and I realize I’m not entering a body building competition and I’d be fooling myself and everyone else if I said that I only eat “clean” because everyone who truly knows me, knows I’m a proud Choc-o-holic. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m definitely happy with what eating a processed food free life has done for my body, toning wise, but I think what’s most important is that I practice what I preach and that is the importance of maintaining a healthy lifestyle and occasionally livening up the party with a peanut M&M or two.

The pageant is only two weeks away and though I’ll be in a bikini in front of hundreds of people, this portion is just a mere slice of what the judges will be looking for. Though I have been in the gym almost every morning, what I’ve been training more is my mind because anyone can get an “ideal” body with professional help but not everyone can offer a special mind and heart.

Love,

Kassie P.

SoleExpo

When I was a Junior at San Jose State University, I interned for Bay Area’s legendary TV and Radio host, Chuy Gomez. Though he was usually out and about doing guest appearances and promotions, I definitely took advantage of my time as an intern learning as much industry knowledge as possible. Now I’m not sure if I got lucky or if Chuy just keeps a good relationship with all interns but we never stopped communicating post internship duties. Chuy has been a great help in giving me advice career wise while promoting a few of my past accomplishments so when he found out I was Miss San Jose Latina, he definitely wanted to help me get the proper exposure.

Last Saturday, Chuy invited me to the second annual SoleExpo* event on the East Side of San Jose. The event was held to help local venders sell and promote personal clothing lines and authentic urban style shoes. Since my family was on our way to Fresno immediately right after, I was not able to stay as long as I would have liked to but I definitely was able to interact with guests and of course, shop. What made this event more special was that I was accompanied by my older sister who hasn’t really had the opportunity to come to events with me since she usually is swamped with third year law school assignments or papers. Eventually, it was time to get on the road but I was happy to make another appearance on the same day my blog hits surpassed 3,000 views!

*To view a picture of myself and Chuy please visit my “Photos” page.

Love,
Kassie P.

Crunch Time

Over the past several days, all of the contestants have been flooded with Miss California Latina emails outlining the weekend and all of its fun events. We also received photographs of our Opening Number dress, our shoes, and two-piece bikini. Of course I’d like to share the photos with you but the organization asked we keep everything private until the actual weekend. What I can describe to you is the Opening Number dress is a simple one shoulder pink cocktail dress paired with nude opened toed ankle strapped heels. The bikini, however, is something I’ll have to physically see in person since the photo didn’t have the best quality and the pattern looked like something military personnel wear in combat. Regardless of how the outfits fit (which I’m hoping everything fits like a glove) I’m thankful they are free and all contestants get to take them home plus further goodies.

With all of the emails coming in full force, I finally feel like this is really happening. I had known I was going to participate in the pageant since September 2012 so now that it’s only three weeks away, my mind is blown away. I’m very excited to have this whole pageant experience part of my life and everything that has come my way because of my Miss San Jose Latina title. This whole year has been a blessing and I’m definitely looking forward to the pageant weekend!

Love,
Kassie P.

LatinoUSA on NPR

I had an amazing thing happen to me last week: I was invited to be a guest speaker on LatinoUSA on NPR. Yes, that’s right…this opportunity meant I’d be part of something HUGE. I received an email from the producer of LatinoUSA in Harlem, New York, asking if I’d like to be part of a panel discussing body image with the Latina and pageant industry. I was so in shock because NPR was something all of my journalism classes listened to at SJSU and the prominent journalists, in my eyes, were definitely high and mighty-celebrity like. After the initial pre-interview phone call, we finalized last minute details and like a child excitedly waiting for Christmas morning all year long, November 1st, my Christmas, finally came arrived.

Once my sister and I showed up to the station, we quickly set up shop and began mic checking and as soon as I knew it, the segment had begun with journalist and moderator, Maria Hinojosa, introducing me as “Blogera* Kassandra Peña, Miss San Jose Latina.” The conversation also included proud feminist and “Blogera” Patricia Valoy in which we all discussed how body image has changed over the years and what we think the future holds for Latinas. Eventually, the segment came to a final close and it was such an amazing feeling to hear my blog address and more importantly, my name be announced on air. Participating in an interview like this just made me even more determined to make a name for myself within the Latina social media community. I felt as if I were doing exactly what I was meant to be doing in life and I truly was at my highest self of fulfillment.

Though the conversation will be edited and aired within the next two weeks, I am so grateful the Miss California Latina organization exists. I would have never had the opportunity to be on NPR if it weren’t for the pageant and my creation of this very blog-how LatinoUSA contacted me. The “Big Day” is now just 26 days away and up to this point, I have had many great opportunities with just my title alone that no matter what happens, I still am walking away as a winner.

Ps- Please visit my “Photos” page to view a picture at the studio

*Blogera is the latest and trendiest “Spanglish” name given to a Latina woman who is a blogger.

Love,
Kassie P.

The Countdown

In exactly one month from today, I will be competing for Miss California Latina and I am so excited! It seems surreal to think one year ago, I was barely filing out the organization’s paperwork to begin the process. Earlier this week, all of the contestants received a handful of emails outlining the pageant’s weekend…and it is something I definitely am looking forward to. Some of the events include attending a Purple Carpet Media Event and lots of dress rehearsals throughout the day!

Now that the pageant is weeks away, I definitely have noticed more anticipation and nervousness within myself. Though these feelings have sometimes kept me tossing and turning before bed, thinking of how the weekend will play out, I know I am more excited than anything else. Years ago, I would have never imagined myself entering a pageant and having all of the great support and opportunities I’ve had thus far. The countdown is officially on and I am totally ready to put San Jose on the map!

Love,
Kassie P.

Dia de los Muertos

Over the weekend, I made a pageant appearance at National Hispanic University for their annual Dia de los Muertos* celebration. Not only was seeing the alters and amazing art work in remembrance of past loved ones a beautiful sight but I also had the opportunity to meet and speak with young girls and their families about what it means to be a “beauty queen.” I was approached by a supportive father whose daughter was a bit too shy to personally ask me pageant questions but nonetheless, I was so happy I could inspire the young girl to go for her dreams. The father let me know his daughter was an aspiring model and actress but needed that extra boost of confidence. As I was telling the young girl this had been my first pageant ever and I had made it this far, she began smiling with a twinkle in her eye as if she was thinking that she too, could someday have the same possibilities.

Aside from meeting local vendors and doing some retail therapy, I also got to spend the afternoon with some very talented musicians and friends, Raul y Mexia*. The brother band (and sons of Hernan Hernandez from legendary group Los Tigres del Norte) performed for the audience and of course rocked the house! The brothers, who I met through Claudia Candelas*** (wife of Raul and my co-founder of “Stiletto Girls,” my next blogging project) have been touring throughout the United States so I was happy I got to spend some time with them while promoting my title.

Now that Miss California Latina is just around the corner, I’ve been reflecting a bit more on this entire year. I feel extremely proud of myself because I’ve gotten out into the community more than ever and have had some amazing opportunities come my way with just the current title I have now. I don’t know what the future holds for me pageant wise but just as the little girl saw that “I’ve made it,” I see Raul y Mexia living out their dreams who most likely at one point of their lives looked up to their dad with that same twinkle in their eyes… thinking of all of the possibilities.

*To view a view a video project on Dia de los Muertos I filmed, produced and edited while at SJSU please click here

**Please visit Raul Y Mexia to view pictures and hear some amazing Latin beats!

***Please visit Claudia’s blog

View some pictures from the event under my “Photos” page!

Love,
Kassie P.

Operation Safeway

Though this pageant life is a new and an unexpected experience for me, I must say I am quite content with all of the opportunities that have come my way. I have met so many people and have gone to exciting events with my sash but one of the greatest perks of being a titleholder is being able to create and promote causes. As you know from a previous post, Santa Clara County definitely has its fair share of poverty and in a somewhat bittersweet feeling, I’m happy I get to work directly with some of these low income community members every single day. These fun, emotional, “too-cool-to-talk-to-you teenagers” constantly remind me how blessed and fortunate I am, and I’m probably 99.9% sure they don’t even know it. When a student tells me she wakes up at 5am because her mom couldn’t afford their house anymore and now travel from a distant city or how a family of five lives in a motel, I’m reminded but more importantly, motivated, to use the resources I have to help in any way.

Seven years ago, I met my best friend. My family had moved second semester of Senior year of high school to a new city (yes, I know, horrible!) and Felicia was the only person who gave the new kid any type of attention. We immediately clicked, mostly due to our faith, and our friendship blossomed and it wouldn’t be much longer until I’d learn exactly how many great connections pastors make throughout their community. Grocery stores like Safeway for example, would donate TONS of food on a weekly basis to her parent’s church so members including myself always left with some yummy treats. Fast forward until present day, it only made sense that I’d bring the “Safeway leftovers” to my work and have it distributed to the teens listed under the “Emergency Funds for Families”*. With the school’s permission and gratitude, “Operation Safeway” was underway. Unfortunately, the past few weeks didn’t pan out as planned: either a miscommunication amongst the Safeway distributor and our church member food picker-upper occurred or some other mishap took place, causing me to come to work empty handed. Luckily this week was different. Safeway must have known I had a ton of kids to feed because it took me a good 20 minutes to pack and stuff my Honda with over 200 loaves of healthy whole wheat bread, french rolls, and baguettes!

As school officials helped me unload all of the bread onto a golf cart, they couldn’t stop thanking me for sharing all of the food. Though I was happy they were happy, I honestly didn’t feel a sense of pride that this was my doing or my idea…I thought, “Well of course I’d bring this food, how could I not? Is there another choice I could have made?” We started dividing all of the bread into baggies for the teens in need when some of the office ladies decided we should start a weekly pantry system for our kids. I’d be in charge of bringing the majority of donated food and they’d provide pasta and sauce and other non-perishable food items. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to physically pass out the bread to the students since I needed to be elsewhere in the school but I was told the kids had looks on their faces as if they had been awarded 1 million hall passes. I was told the teens were overjoyed and it had been an unexpected surprise for many. According to the school Registrar, one student said, “My mom is going to be so happy…we’re going to eat.”

Love,

Kassie P.

*To read more about Emergency Funds for Families, please scroll down to “The Platform I Need”

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