by Cindy Tyler
When Maria Cardenas celebrated her quinceanera recently, she chose the biggest, sparkliest, most eye catching tiara she could find. “I knew I would only get to wear it for one day,” she says, “And I wanted it to be BIG!” Little did Maria know that she would soon add a second tiara to her collection of jewels when the Guajome Park Academy sophomore was crowned Miss Teen Vista 2019 on Saturday night. She now has a new sparkly tiara that she will get to wear for a year.
Maria’s sister-queen, Miss Vista 2019, is nineteen-year-old Rocio Quesada. Rocio has quite a collection of tiaras, having served as Miss Teen Vista Princess in 2014, 2015, and 2016 and Miss Vista Princess in 2018. Rocio brings maturity and community service experience to her new role as Miss Vista and is excited to begin her new adventure.
It will be a busy year for the new royals and their courts of princesses. Rocio attends Palomar College on her way to a career as a paramedic while working as a cashier at Target. She dreams of visiting every state in the U.S., speaking at a TedTalk, and getting a doctorate degree in Psychology. Maria is a straight-A student who holds two school track records, plays soccer, dances Ballet Folklorico, and produces prize-winning art. Her future goal is to graduate from Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising and have her own clothing line. In spite of their already busy schedules, Maria and Rocio will make appearances and perform community service at events in Vista and throughout San Diego County in the coming year.
Joining Maria and Rocio are the Teen Vista Princesses: Boston Jelmyer, Arabella Kriedeman, Jamie Guzman, and Valerie Shoup, and Miss Vista Princesses Susie Martinez, Kaylan Movilla, Angel Nunez, and Destini Perkins.
The ten winners were crowned in front of a large, loud, and proud crowd at Guajome Park Academy. Some 750 supporters packed the gym to cheer for their favorite contestants. Representatives of the Vista Chamber of Commerce, Vista Elks’ Lodge,and Vista Historical Society were in attendance, along with City Councilmember Joe Green, who presented proclamations to the 2018 queens Camie Parker and Jordan Hitchens. “Visiting Royalty,” title holders from as near as Bonsall and Fallbrook and as far away as South Gate, San Bernardino, El Monte and San Diego, greeted the new queens with a standing ovation. Fifteen former Miss Vistas or Miss Teen Vistas were also in attendance. Jeweler John Shakarian presented Miss Teen Vista with a custom made diamond pendant and Miss Vista with a custom diamond ring. In addition to the beautiful jewelry, winners received scholarships and a prize package filled with contributions from local businesses. The ten winners were also treated to a limo ride from the pageant to the after party at LampPost Pizza in Vista Village.
A number of special awards were presented prior to the crowning of the new queens. In the Teen category, Boston Jelmyer received the Camila Lee Congeniality Award, while Serenity Serda and Ashley Perez tied for “Contestants’ Choice.” Isabel Hernandez was named “Audience Choice” and Sierra Charleston was named ‘Most Photogenic.” Jasmine Figueroa won the “Facebook Favorite” award with some 2600 likes on her picture on the pageant’s Facebook page; honorable mention went to Isabel Hernandez with 2100 likes.
In the Miss division, Angel Nunez won the Camila Lee Congeniality Award and the “Contestants’ Choice” award. Destini Perkins was named “Audience Choice” and Alondra Acevedo was “Most Photogenic.” Susie Martinez won the “Facebook Favorite” award.
The 31 young women who competed in this year’s pageant came from a wide variety of backgrounds and interests. Initially, some were confident walking on stage while others were more hesitant. Each received individual coaching from director Laura Bednar and co-director Katie Collier and by pageant day they all walked liked seasoned professionals. They also received coaching on how to handle their individual conversations with the judges as well as their on-stage questions. Volunteers back stage helped each contestant with hair and makeup.
New this year, contestants also received self-defense training as part of their pageant preparation. “One in five women will be physically attacked at some point in her life,” Bednar told the audience, “And our women need to be prepared to defend themselves.”
The Miss Vista and Miss Teen Vista Pageants aren’t about beauty, but are aimed at helping young women discover how to be their best selves and enter the world as strong, confident women. They are also taught to look outside of themselves and choose a cause that is important to them and where they can make a difference in the world. Rocio chose mental health and self love as her platform, while Maria would like to help impoverished people in Mexico, particularly the elderly.
Rocio reveals that one of her hobbies is dancing alone in the living room with loud music. She’s unlikely to have much time for solo dancing during the next twelve months as she and Maria and their Princesses dedicate their year to service in the community and being positive role models for the young women they meet through their royal adventures. All of these young women are eager to sacrifice some of their personal time to make a difference and leave a mark in their community. No doubt that mark will be a positive one. And probably pretty sparkly too.