Here We Go!

Seven. Days. Left. Yes that’s right, Miss California Latina is exactly one week away. Next Sunday, at this very hour I will either be the next reigning queen or I will look back on this amazing year and still feel a great sense of satisfaction. Everything I need for the pageant is set in stone and ready to go: travel plans, makeup and hair looks, and freshly steamed outfits.

I have had such an amazing time preparing for the pageant and I am honestly able to say I’m ready to be living the actual experience. I have been waiting exactly one year for this day and now that it’s right around the corner, just amazes me. I have had so much support from my family and close friends and knowing I have all of their best wishes and positive vibes is giving me that extra boost of confidence I need. I’ve sent a few questions via email to the pageant coordinator about certain details throughout the weekend but I also figured it’d be best for me to just go with the flow and experience the mystery as the days go on.

According to our itinerary, we will be busy from about 7am to 11pm throughout the entire weekend and the only time we’ll be in any contact with our families is on Sunday, the final day. Though I’d like to spend some time with my family to shake off some last minute jitters, I know I will be having a great time participating in interviews, photo shoots and outfit fittings. Out of all of the events that will take place, I really am looking forward to the personal one-on-one interviews (taking place on Saturday). I feel this is truly going to be my perfect opportunity to really connect with the judges and allow them to get to see my true self. Plus, who doesn’t like to talk about themselves?!

I’m so thankful for everything that has come my way as Miss San Jose Latina and I am so ready to see what doors will open for me next week!Love,
Kassie P.

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.

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.

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”

“MGPTF”

Today I had the most amazing opportunity to be part of San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed’s “Mayor’s Gang Prevention Task Force” (MGPTF) Community Town Hall meeting. As mentioned in a previous post, San Jose is plagued with youth violence and though city statistics show gang related crime is down 18 percent from last year, it still remains an issue for the nation’s fourth largest city. The meeting was held at a high school in the East Side of San Jose, where one can usually find some type of gang related graffiti or tagging on almost every street corner. Dozens of San Jose residents, young and old, poured into the gymnasium where the facilitators introduced themselves and stated what department they were associated with (SJPD, SJFD, Parks & Rec. etc). We later broke into groups where we could voice our opinions and desires of what needs to change to keep our communities safe. At the end of our team discussions, we were then to present to the entire body our top concerns.

I’ve always heard when groups of passionate advocators come together for a good cause, positive changes are made. So it wasn’t surprising to see out of seven large groups, six groups felt the number one factor the city of San Jose needs to focus on is educating parents on the overall notion of gangs. Presenters stated parents need to be more involved and more aware of what’s happening within our communities and more importantly, to their children. Many felt San Jose should hold parent programs paralleled with schools that focus on gang prevention and include other avenues of awareness like alcohol abuse and mental health issues. Today was the first of four MGPTF meetings that will be held in various districts of San Jose and once all Town Hall gatherings are completed, Mayor Chuck Reed and Council Members will compile all of the notes and ideas and will create a strategic plan that will be implemented by 2016.

At the end of the gathering, I also had the opportunity to be interviewed by Peninsula Press on why I showed up and what I hope for the future of San Jose. I talked about my Miss San Jose Latina title and platform and though the interview was short, I felt it prepared me for when it’s really my time to shine during pageant weekend.

Love,
Kassie P.

What’s all the Babble about?

My good friend, Claudia Candelas, and I met up earlier this week to discuss our future blogging venture collaboration: Stiletto Girls. Claudia and I met through mutual friends at San Jose State University and we instantly hit it off because of our passion for media and all things related. Working while surfing the web for content ideas at Santana Row, I happen to come across a link to Babble.com*. The site was calling all bloggers to enter a chance to be named one of “Babble’s Best 100 Bloggers 2013.” I immediately signed this very blog to the list under the categories: Latina and Humor & Entertainment…and within hours, my stats blew out of the water. Though Babble editors and staff will end up selecting the final 100, just having my profile on another platform gives me that much more exposure to my pageant experience.

As you know from previous posts, I’ve been getting myself mentally prepared and doing everything else in between that will make the “Big Day” a success but to be honest, it hasn’t really hit me that it’s just around the corner! To think that exactly one year ago in September I had my initial pre-selection phone interview amazes me. Even though I didn’t create my blog until long after claiming the title of Miss San Jose Latina, I’ve had an amazing time documenting this experience because it’s something I’ll always be able to look back and reminisce on, with or without that Miss California Latina crown.

*To visit my Babble page and leave a comment, please visit: http://www.babble.com/babble-100/babble-100-readers-choice/kassandra-pena/

Love,
Kassie P.

Little Miss Sunshine

By now, you’re quite familiar with the fact that this whole pageant experience is a new thing for the Peña family. I don’t think anyone ever really anticipated that someone in our family would be part of a pageant but there’s always that one special person in a family that puts the “fun” in dysfunctional (of course said with laughter and loving intentions).

Ever since I was little, my parents instilled the importance of maintaining a healthy and active lifestyle. Soda and cookies for example, were hardly stored in our cabinets and usually after the every-once-in-a-great-while McDonald’s Kid’s Happy Meal, I’d hear my father’s repetitive lecture of being mindful of what I put in my body given that Diabetes runs on both sides of our families. Pre-divorce family outings actually consisted of us stretching together before mile runs followed by picking fresh wild berries by an abandoned railroad track. I began playing various sports like basketball and track at the age of 8 and was on a team every year up until my junior year of high school due to a head concussion during a softball game. Nervous to get back on the field the following year, I opted to take a Weight Training class instead, which has stuck with me to this day.

Now we all know one of the main highlights of any pageant is the swim wear portion and although I will not be able to view or try on my swimsuit prior to the weekend, I am on a mission to get in the best shape of my fitness career. Though in my conscious mind I am fully aware of what that means (no sugar, processed foods and all other delicious goodies) the evil Kassie on my left shoulder speaks to me on an average of 3 times a week saying, “Eat that, it tastes great!” Thankfully my family is just as supportive of me and my first pageant goals as Olive’s parents were in the movie Little Miss Sunshine and they’ve decided if I will have to skip out on Halloween and Thanksgiving meals and treats, they will do it with me! We’ve decided to stock up on fresh pie and all other not so healthy foods for the remainder of September because once October 1st comes, it’s GO TIME…bikini bodies 2.0 for the entire family!

Without my family’s support throughout this new experience, I don’t know how confident I would be going into pageant weekend but to know they are behind my every move verifies I’m exactly where I need to be at this point of my life…and to thank them I’d like to shortly present them with fluffy oatmeal chocolate chips cookies straight out of the oven!

Love,

Kassie P.

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