Standing under the stage lights, Janella Garcia, Miss Hollywood Teen USA and freshmen pre-nursing major, said she felt her heart rise out of her chest as she prepared to be interviewed in front of her biggest audience ever.
She heard the sounds of cheering parents and friends and she said it gave her courage to step forward in calm confidence.
Janella Garcia has brought her experiences in pageants with her as she entered a new season of life as a student at California Baptist University.
Her current title is Miss Hollywood Teen USA which she won July 31. With this title, Janella Garcia does a majority of her community service in Hollywood.
Janella Garcia will be representing Hollywood Dec. 2-3 at the Miss California Teen USA pageant in Long Beach competing against 70 other contestants.
She is from Riverside County and was able to represent Riverside at the Miss Teen Hollywood Pageant.
Janella Garcia now represents the greater Hollywood area but is also able to do local community service in the Riverside area in order to give back to her original community.
Her goal at the Miss Hollywood Teen pageant was to bring awareness to the importance of education and how things you do in high school can affect your future opportunities.
Janella Garcia sees her title as a way she can bring awareness to the importance of education and how things you do in high school can affect your future. Janella said she sees her title as a way she can bring awareness to issues she cares about back home.
“I want to be able to have my platform be about education, bullying, self-confidence — more than one thing. Everyone thinks you have the sash, photo shoots, looking good, but there’s so much more to that,” Janella Garcia said. “So many people look up to you as a role model and it has allowed me to really show what means a lot to me.”
After winning Miss Hollywood, Garcia said she got one “cheat meal,” In-N-Out, and was then immediately set up with a personal trainer and sponsorships by local businesses supporting her platform and was required to stay up-to-date on current events and happenings within the community.
She said she is excited for this upcoming pageant because of the independence she has with decisions within the competition.
“I feel like so much more myself this year,” Janella Garcia said. “I have so much more impact on the decisions: What I’ll be wearing, how I’m presenting myself, my own questions. It’s really me, so I’m excited.”
Janella Garcia started participating in pageants four years ago in response to her older sister, Giselle Garcia, who began doing pageants before Janella Garcia started to notice the positive impact the pageants were making on her (sister).
“(Giselle) started because she wanted to do modeling,” Janella Garcia said. “From there, I saw how she grew and how she really blossomed. Her speaking skills were better and her confidence was better.
It was amazing and I knew that I wanted to have that same experience of growing as a person.
It’s definitely helped me in more than one way, not just my confidence but also my speaking skills have excelled.”
A typical pageant for Janella Garcia includes a lot of preparation, ranging between working out to practicing questions.
Pageants can be about two days in length covering interviews with judges, the runway walk with two different outfits and progressing into final rounds, which repeats the previous format with less competitors. The final round focuses on the top-five competitors who are asked questions live on stage.
Janella Garcia said pageants have helped her personally grow in many ways but she has also seen pageants improve skills, such as interviewing, in other contenders as well.
In each pageant, she is interviewed about her personality, ways she serves her community, and who she is as a person. Janella Garcia said explaining those facets of herself to others in a short, three-minute time period has been a stretching, but helpful, experience.
“(Pageants) allow you to really formulate your opinions in a short amount of time and get your point across on the message you want to show,” Janella Garcia said.
In addition to interviewing skills, pageants have caused her to become more involved in her community by serving in ways she would not have been involved before.
Janella Garcia said the service she has done because of pageants has helped her become a more well-rounded person — happy and eager to serve others without getting anything in return.
“I’ve done community service for cancer organizations,” Janella Garcia said. “Then my great-grandmother got diagnosed with cancer and now when I go to the events, I have more of a purpose and a reason to be there because I have experience with it.”
Janella Garcia said the biggest way she has grown is in her self-confidence.
“I’ve learned that I love myself for who I am,” Janella Garcia said. “As cliché as it sounds, we all have different bodies and you have to learn to really accept yourself and that really comes into play with your confidence.”