Stanford women take up mantles as Miss San Jose, Miss Silicon Valley

Both will compete for Miss California title this December

Jacqueline Wibowo, Miss San Jose, rehearses her evening gown walk as she prepares for the Miss California pageant on April 7, 2018. Photo by Veronica Weber.

When Amia Nash didn't hear her name called for fourth, third or second place during the naming of the runners-up in the Miss Silicon Valley competition last December, she was disappointed — that is, until she was crowned the winner.

"I was standing on the stage still; I thought, 'Wow, I did really badly; I didn't even get top five,'" Nash said. "I was looking around, thinking, 'All these other girls still remaining are very talented, smart women, doing crazy impressive things in our community.' When they called my name, I didn't know what to do. I was like, 'Do I walk forward?'"

Nash, who has lived in the Bay Area for six years and recently completed her master's degree in community health and prevention research at Stanford University, will now go on to compete for Miss California this December. And she's not alone: Jacqueline Wibowo, a Stanford senior who will graduate in June with a bachelor's degree in public policy and a master's degree in management science and engineering, will also be competing, as she was recently crowned Miss San Jose.

"It was just really exciting," Wibowo said. "You go into it and you work hard, but something that they like to tell every contestant is that on any given day, (the winner) could be any given girl. It depends on the judges."

As titleholders in the Miss America Organization, both women are now using their respective titles as Miss San Jose and Miss Silicon Valley during their year of public service. Nash's platform is mental health advocacy, an issue that has been important to her since high school; Wibowo's is women in leadership. She has already spoken to young women at local schools, including Palo Alto and Gunn high schools, hoping to empower them to pursue their careers.

On April 21, she'll help host the Women in Entrepreneurship Summit at Stanford as an initiative with the Business Association for Stanford Entrepreneurial Students. The event will feature prominent female entrepreneurs.

"They say to choose something that you really care about, and at first I thought about increasing diversity in tech or increasing women in tech," Wibowo said. "Then I realized I wanted something a little more universal and that the issues I cared about most in all these fields was getting more women in leadership positions."

Nash's connection to her platform was strengthened after she graduated from Santa Clara University and had an internship researching Asian-American adolescent mental health in Palo Alto.

"Part of it was recognizing that our local Palo Alto community does have higher rates of adolescent depression and suicide," Nash said. "I want to raise awareness (about it) in the local community. It's something I'm hoping to have conversations about and de-stigmatize."

Nash plans on partnering with nonprofits in the Bay Area, as well as the Stanford Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, to further her advocacy work.

Stephanie Quintal, the executive director of the Miss Santa Clara Organization, the program that bestowed both women's titles, said that Nash's clear vision of what she wants for her life and her strong ties to service likely contributed to her success in the Miss America Organization. Wibowo has similar strengths, according to Quintal.

"For (Wibowo), I think this is a journey of self-realization and personal growth, but she came in with a very clear understanding of who she was," Quintal said.

In addition to public service, both women are training for the Miss California pageant: Participants must demonstrate an individual "talent" as well as complete a 10-minute, press-conference-style interview and several other sections, according to Quintal.

In order to prepare for the interview, Nash will work with Tony Moises, a volunteer interview coach who works with most of the regional pageant titleholders in California. The section includes discussion of current events, opinions on relevant social and political issues, and further conversation regarding participants' platform, Nash said.

Nash will also practice her talent, which is Tahitian dancing. Wibowo's talent is playing the piano.

Wibowo said that in competing for the state title, she wants to demonstrate that Miss California "does not have just one image."

"For me as a first-generation Asian-American, and also as someone who could be considered more nerdy as a Stanford student who loves finance and tech and business, I want to show that I'm also someone who can love being on stage, performing and community service," she said. "Miss California (should) represent that a girl can achieve in a lot of different ways."

Nash expressed similar sentiments about competing.

"I really wanted to show that girls can be strong, we can be athletes, we can be nerds and go to great schools like Stanford, and still be examples of strong, beautiful women," she said. "That's something I'm hoping to keep in myself (while competing)."

Demonstrating one's beauty on stage has required Nash and Wibowo to stay in good shape. Wibowo follows a daily routine, working out every day, sticking to a diet of mainly lean proteins and not eating after 9 p.m.

"I think the hard part is the diet," she said. "You're running from class to class and you get hungry."

She also sets aside a few hours each month to rehearse her evening gown and bikini runway walks.

In the practice room recently, Wibowo put on music from past pageants and walked in 6-inch heels, not once removing her gaze from the mirror, except when she practiced looking out onto the audience. She analyzed her every move, freezing in one position and then fixing her feet in different places to control every detail of her form.

She reviews her practices with the help of a friend.

"I'll just have a friend film me and be like, 'Does this look awkward?' or 'What looks funny?' and you just gather tips from there," she said. "I watch a lot of YouTube videos and you just kind of figure out what works for you."

At the Miss California pageant this winter, Wibowo will be wearing a plain green dress, with a few sparkles, which is deliberately understated.

"My whole aura that I'm trying to project is really elegant, classic, understated in the sense that you have to look closer," she said. "My dress is form fitting but a little bit more modest, hinting at what might be there versus showing everything."

Her theme is reflected as she practices her evening gown walk to slower music. She glides across the stage rather than strutting to the music as she does in her bikini walk rehearsal.

For both Wibowo and Nash, the program's scholarship awards largely motivated their participation. As the winner of Miss San Jose, Wibowo won $1,775 in scholarship money; she also won the overall talent and overall interview awards, for which she was awarded an extra $200. For being crowned Miss Silicon Valley, Nash was awarded $1,775.

Most of the competitors are similarly motivated, Quintal said.

"These aren't just girls who want to get on stage and look pretty in a bikini. ... They are women with goals and aspirations who want to do things with their lives, and we are trying to give them the platform to do that, and some scholarship money and life skills at the same time."


Follow the Palo Alto Weekly/Palo Alto Online on Twitter @PaloAltoWeekly and Facebook for breaking news, local events, photos, videos and more.

Sarah Klearman is a former Weekly editorial intern.

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26 people like this
Posted by wut
a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 15, 2018 at 8:13 am

Uncritcal coverage of beauty pageants is totally wrong. Covering Stanford women doing "bikini walks" made me sick. This story is misogyny.

19 people like this
Posted by real woman
a resident of Stanford
on Apr 15, 2018 at 10:47 pm

[Post removed.]

13 people like this
Posted by Another woman
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 16, 2018 at 11:03 am

I found the article well written and timely, and appreciate that these educated women found a supportive way to express their femininity.

I was always a lady and am also an educated woman, coming from a family of strong, educated women that were also known to be "ladies" to other women, and also, "ladies" to gentleman that appreciated our minds, if not all of us would win a prize for beauty. The ladies in this article have both. It's great to recognize that.

Perhaps the pendulum is swinging back to the days when ladies and gentlemen that are comfortable in their own skin were admired and appreciated for their character, their minds and their accomplishments.

If so, it's about time. The 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, 70 and 80+ year old male and female children from Hollywood are not representative of all American society. But it's unlikely that the two (bitter) posters above would object to what we see coming from there.

It's time for us to have new role models for American men and women. These local women successfully fill a role for a healthier, more realistic alternative to the unrealistic dysfunction that many have celebrated for far too long.

10 people like this
Posted by Get Off It
a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 16, 2018 at 3:58 pm

If these women freely choose to participate in bikini walks and whatnots, that is their own business.

5 people like this
Posted by kids
a resident of another community
on Apr 17, 2018 at 11:16 am

kids is a registered user.

Real woman.

You should go to the event! Women have the right to do what they want. This is a positive program. For the last few years another contestant from Stanford started a reading literacy program in underserved schools. They even had a young boy who thought it would be fun and he was accepted readily into their younger program and had a great time with a very supportive community. The minute you call yourself a real woman and think anyone else that does not have your same views is not real is when all your "work" for women goes to pot. If older girls want to participate they should have every right to. Your narrow view of womens rights and the notion that women who do not share your views today are not "worthy" and should not get to do whatever they want is what you fought against supposedly. Go to a pageant and meet the contestants or speak with them. You might be surprised. The teen winner just happens to be using her platform to start school clubs discussing women's rights . I respect your view not to walk on stage in a bikini so just don't do that. No one is asking you to.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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