Junior journalism major Ashley Lawrence and freshman communication studies major Juliet Weaver competed in the Miss California USA 2017 competition from Dec. 3-4 at the Long Beach Convention Center. Although neither went home with the crown, both reflected on their journey and hopes for the future.

Lawrence, crowned Miss Century City USA, sacrificed both social gatherings and free time to prepare for the competition. Lawrence explained that she spent most of this past year in the gym and focusing on mental preparedness.

“It took a lot of mental preparation to stand confidently on stage,” she explained, but with the help of her previous state-holder colleagues, Lawrence was able to realize her unique inner and outer beauty.

“After transferring [to APU] last year, I had to find out who I was. I found my core values, beliefs and ethics during this past year,” Lawrence said. “I’ll never forget this quote by football head coach Victor Santa Cruz: ‘Doubt nothing, take everything.’ I never doubted my journey, and I took every obstacle, opportunity and lesson to help me get to where I am today.”

Lawrence shared that the most rewarding part of the experience was having younger pageant girls come up to her after competitions and inspiring them to chase their dreams to get to where they want to be.

Weaver, crowned Miss Huntington Beach USA, has grown up in the entertainment industry since she was six. Weaver explained that the industry took a mental toll on her, and since then, she has found that pageants are a good platform to talk about serious issues young women face, like dating violence.

“The biggest and hardest part of the preparation for me is to be vulnerable, wear my heart on my sleeve and show and embrace my imperfections, rather than fit the perfect pageant stereotype mold,” Weaver said.