We at the Clog love to see what unique and wonderful things students are up to on campus, so we decided to interview Berkeley’s very own Miss San Francisco for 2013, Heidi Cheung. A double major in Legal Studies and Anthropology with a minor in Dance and Performance Studies here at Cal, Cheung plans to attend law school after she gets her bachelor’s degrees.
DC: Hey Heidi! First of all, congratulations on your win! That must be very exciting.
HC: Thank you! It is very exciting! I just got home from the Miss California orientation in Fresno, and I’ve been catching up on sleep. Miss Golden Gate, Miss SF’s Outstanding Teen and I all slept in the same room, and it felt like a slumber party every night [laughs]. But nonetheless, all the state contestants worked very hard in our jam-packed weekend, and I have no doubts it will be a spectacular show this year.
DC: What made you interested in participating in pageants?
HC: For as long as I can remember, I’ve watched the Miss America Pageant on TV. When I was 7 years old, I got an advertisement in the mail for a children’s pageant. Before you make a judgement though, the pageants I started competing in when I was 8 years old were confidence pageants. Girls under the age of 13 are prohibited to wear makeup. Even after, girls are encouraged to wear minimal makeup and must dress appropriately for their age group. There are no swimsuit competitions even for the oldest age groups, and the focus of the pageant was to build confidence, self-esteem, poise and learn how to speak in a public setting. Optional competitions included casual wear modeling, talent, speech, best resume and scholastic achievement. Through these pageants I shed my shyness and met a lot of friends that I still contact today. I competed once or twice a year, and it took me 8 years to win my first state pageant.
DC: How has pageantry affected who you are as a person?
HC: Throughout my childhood, pageantry was a hobby and a means to learn and grow. Through pageants I’ve learned valuable lessons that I use in all aspects of life. I’ve diligently practiced how to present myself in a competitive interview, be an efficient public speaker, how to entertain large audiences through performing arts, how to walk in heels and more. Through the Miss America Organization, the world’s largest provider of scholarships for young women, I’ve earned scholarships that go towards my undergraduate degrees at UC Berkeley. I’ve also directly impacted my community by volunteering and promoting my platform: Giving Hope by Giving Back. As cancer has affected my family in devastating ways, one of my goals as Miss San Francisco, and hopefully Miss California, is to raise awareness about cancer research, volunteer opportunities, as well as free services to cancer victims. Since being a teen competitor, the Miss America Organization has been my home away from home; the nourishment and support I’ve gained is incredible. I’ve been given opportunities that I never would have if I didn’t enter the teen program, and I attribute so much of my success as a person to the Miss America Program. In short, I’ve gained the strength and courage necessary to strive for excellence in scholastic achievements, commitment to service and personal presentation (particularly living a healthy lifestyle). This strength has allowed me to succeed in many endeavors, while working through rough times, too.
DC: What’s it like participating in a pageant (e.g. a day in the life)?
HC: Local Preliminaries are during the school year, so we have rehearsals once a week for two to three months leading up to competition. Rehearsals were on Sunday this year and were about three to four hours long in the afternoon. Contestants practice every phase of competition and learn dance routines for pageant night. On the weekend of Miss San Francisco, we had interviews all day on Saturday (by this, I mean we prepared for interview all day, waited in line until our turn and then interviewed for 10 minutes). On Sunday, we had to be at the venue by 8 a.m., run through the whole show, have lunch, then get hair and makeup done and start the pageant at 3 pm. After the show, the Miss San Francisco board swept the new titleholders away for a sponsor/committee dinner. That was the best part of the day, meeting all the volunteers who run the show (Miss America Org is a non-profit organization, run by volunteers) and the sponsors who donate their time, money, and services. These are the people that made the pageant possible and continue to work with me to prepare me for Miss California.
DC: What does it mean to you to win Miss San Francisco?
HC: I have the honor of representing the “city by the bay” and the privilege of competing for Miss California, making a difference in my community in promoting my platform Giving Hope by Giving Back: American Cancer Society, meeting people and making new memories across the Bay Area and representing the Miss America Organization, which has been a second home to me. Having competed in pageants for so long, the most valuable thing to me isn’t necessarily to win, but to learn — about myself, and the world around me.
DC: What are some of the things you hope to do with this title?
HC: My platform is “Giving Hope by Giving Back”. A huge part of that is promoting community service and involvement while also advocating support for the American Cancer Society, in its centennial year. Today, cancer is the second main cause of death in the United States, and is affecting people of all ages. Not to mention, cancer has deep roots in my family, as it took my grandmother’s life this past February, and other members of my family are battling and have battled it. I’ve made an alliance with the American Cancer Society to promote cancer awareness, research and volunteerism, so I’ll be attending events across the Bay Area as a spokesperson for the American Cancer Society and cancer awareness and research in general. I’ll also be raising money for the Miss America Organization’s national platform: Children’s Miracle Network. I believe that leading by example is the best way to promote all the organizations and sponsors I’m working with. Therefore, I’ve been attending events, volunteering myself and trying lots of new things. I’ve been attending three or more appearances a week since I was crowned on March 10 to promote the Miss America Organization so that other young women can benefit from this incredible, life-changing program.
DC: You’ve said that you’re very interested in promoting equality for women. Where do pageants fit in with that goal?
HC: Today, women on average still receive only receive 77 cents for every dollar a man makes. Inequality between men and women continues to exist.
The Miss America Organization provides professional and personal opportunities for women to be leaders in their community and promote their voice in culture and politics. The four points of the Miss America crown are style, success, scholarship and service. In striving for excellence in these four qualities, women are turning dreams into reality. By inspiring other young women to achieve their goals, we’re pushing the boundaries of what it means to be a modern woman. Through strength and determination, women are taking steps to breaking the glass ceiling every day. Empowerment is the key.
DC: How do you go about breaking stereotypes for women in a pageant or in your daily life?
HC: As a Miss America representative, I’m a role model with or without my crown and sash. Therefore, I work actively against negative social conditioning by being grounded in myself, confident, happily independent and self-sufficient. I am always learning and staying updated on the world around me. I stand up for myself, take care of myself and spend a lot of time giving back to the community. I think that’s really important. To help other people and positively impact the world around me is empowerment, and by example, I can show others how to break through stereotypes for women, men and different social groups.
DC: What are some things that anyone can do to support equal opportunities for women?
HC: If we all promote and increase awareness of the importance of equal opportunities in the labor market, we can motivate employers to implement more flexible forms of work organization. While being aware, we can all work hard to set goals to break stereotypes individually, as team efforts are stronger than individual ones. The keys to equality are further accessibility to education and hard work. For women specifically; education, retraining and improvement of qualifications for typically “male” jobs, will make a difference.
People cannot change other people. So the best way to support equal opportunities for women is for people to take control of their actions, stand up for themselves and act fairly towards each other. If more people lead by example, raise awareness and work hard, then one step at a time, we will achieve equality.
DC: You’ve mentioned to me that your next goal is Miss California. When and where is that taking place?
HC: Miss California will be June 24-29 in Fresno, CA. The final night will be at the William Saroyan Theatre on Saturday June 29th, 2013, in the evening. The Miss CA Organization is working on getting it streamed on the internet. Keep posted for updates on my blog and Facebook page!
So there you have it, folks! We at the Clog wish Heidi Cheung well in her endeavors and hope she brings home the title of Miss California.
Image source: –Mark– under Creative Commons