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.

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Final Stamp of Approval

My pageant experience would not be possible without the financial support of all of my sponsors. I have been so blessed and thankful that each of my sponsors have been supportive of my journey and have made this experience a cherished memory of a lifetime. Of course I am grateful for every organization that has joined me on my run, however; I’d really like to extend my deepest gratitude to my biggest financial supporter: Caribe Nightclub. After the initial interview for the pageant, I remember thinking to myself how on earth I’d come up with close to $1,000 to participate.* Since I personally know the owner of the club, I knew I’d be able to ask for his support but I was definitely nervous not knowing the outcome. Luckily, after quickly stating the amount (hoping the sound would gently roll off of my tongue and kind of go in one ear and out the other) the owner blew out a whistle and agreed to paying the full amount. I distinctly remember the feeling of burden being instantly lifted off of my shoulders as if pageant angels had come to the rescue. Since then, I had been making payment installments every other month to Miss California Latina… up until earlier this week. I could not believe how much time had already passed and now I was making my final payment.

As mentioned, when I first found out exactly how much it would cost to participate, I remember having a feeling of “Well there goes that experience” because I knew that I, myself, could probably not have come up with the cash meanwhile paying off my car and monthly rent. I remember feeling pretty down because I truly wanted to try something different but wasn’t confident I could come up with the funds, that is; until I realized it was me who was holding myself back, not the money. I knew in my heart I’d find the means and it would only take my dedication and time to find sponsors. Thankfully and by the grace and timing of God, I found all of my sponsors and the birth of my journey had officially begun.

Though my contributors have been a big part of this experience financially, I’d also like to take the time to thank my other “sponsors,” my readers! My passion and calling in life is creative writing and I feel so honored when my readers comment, email and tweet me positive feedback on my posts. I feel an overwhelming amount of satisfaction and fulfillment when my readers take time to hear my voice. Thank you all who have joined me on my journey and who are rooting for Miss San Jose Latina 2013!

*Participation fee includes the following: Hotel Lodging, All Meals, Purple Carpet Media Event Transportation, Opening Number Dress/Jewelery/Shoes, Swim Wear, Weekend Competition Sash and Goody Bags from Miss California Latina sponsors.

Love,
Kassie P.

Here’s My Card For Ya!

Earlier this week, I looked over my calendar of pageant events in San Jose that I will be attending and thought it would be great PR for me to pass out business cards to those I come in contact with. I quickly logged onto Vistaprints.com and created 250 fun, colorful business cards that have all of my social media contact information. In general, I think it’s always important to promote ones self and now with this pageant title under my belt, I truly want to get out in my community and let people know who I am and how they can support me. With my multicolored zebra print business cards, I know I will be able to create a larger network both personal and business.

I’m very excited to start attending events while meeting lots of new people of all different walks of life in San Jose. I know getting lots of exposure in this city will lead to great opportunities for me because you never know whose hands my business card may fall into!

Love,
Kassie P.

But I Am Latina!…

I remember my mother telling me stories at a very young age about her life and all of the accomplishments and struggles she went through in order to get where she was at that point of her life. She would tell me how she learned English in the 1st grade since my Nicaraguan grandmother and Salvadorian grandfather were constantly working to make ends meet while still being able to afford to send my mother and her two sisters to receive private school education. My mother would tell me stories about how once she made it to a prestigious private university, she lived off of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for both lunch and dinner and would have to stick her hand out of the car window on raining days and use a rag as her windshield wiper. I remember constantly asking my mother to tell me stories about her youth, as I found them so fascinating, but I remember I used to find myself confused when she’d tell me stories about her difficulties being a fluent Spanish speaking Latina at predominantly white institutions. My mother told me many stories of how she was often called “Coconut” from both her white friends at school and her Latina friends, outside of school. I learned at a very young age, that my beloved mother had been a victim of racism but I never really thought that I too, would soon be able to pass down my own stories of racism to my future children.

I started preschool when I was one years old because like most Latino parents, mine had to work. I literally was raised by my preschool teachers, whom I loved very much, who also happened to only speak English. Though both of my parents are fluent in Spanish and learned English while in school, I can remember Spanish only being spoken at home, from time to time. Spanish music, Latin cuisine and Spanish speaking babysitters were a regular at the Peña household, however, for some reason the Spanish language was not made a priority to know. Spanish was something I knew was part of my culture but I had put it off to the side knowing that I at least knew the basics.

As time went by, I started realizing that though I identified myself as full Latina, others were quick to point out that perhaps I was not, as my Spanish grammar or conjugations were incorrect. Friends from all different walks of life referred me to being “white washed” and sure enough, it was something that became part of the norm. I would find myself in an identity struggle because in my heart and mind I did see myself as a Latina who loved reading Latin novels, listening to Mexican ballets, and traveling to Latin American countries but to a person who was quick to judge, I was a “white washed” Latina who didn’t speak, act or dress like the “true” Latina. In fact, in my Latino Identity class in college, my professor for some odd reason during a class discussion decided to ask the entire class to raise their hands if they felt I was “white washed.” Even though about everyone except for 3 people (me included) raised their hands, I felt no embarrassment as I quickly stated, while shrugging my shoulders, that it didn’t matter what others thought of me because I knew what I identified myself as.

As I continue with the pageant process, I know I may come across obstacles and those who oppose of me winning solely because my Spanish may not be up to par, however, this is the exact reason why I do want to win Miss California Latina. I believe there are thousands of other Latina women in California who are exactly like me: who identify themselves as Latina but who may speak little to none Spanish. I believe these women like myself, need to be represented in a professional way to show others that what matters most is what you truly believe in. I believe these Latinas are caught in an identity struggle as we are both judged from people in and out of our cultures. I’d really like to win this title because I think this would be a great platform for me to reach out to as many people possible, both males and females, who want to express their love and devotion to the Latin culture but may be embarrassed because they don’t know the language for whatever reasons they have.

Love,

Kassie P.