Merced County Times Newspaper
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Miss Merced County to compete at Miss California this month

Kiley Pastori
Kiley Pastori

Kiley Pastori was crowned Miss Merced County in November 2019 when she was 18 years old. She has held the title since.

She is now 20 and is preparing to enter the Miss California competition, which will be held from June 21 through 25 in Fresno.

“Holding the Miss Merced County title for this long is completely not normal, but being that we didn’t have Miss California last year due to COVID, they gave us the choice to keep our title or give it up,” Pastori told the Times. “So here I am almost two years later.”

During that time, Pastori has been attending Fresno State University and will be a Junior this Fall.  She is a Biochemistry major and plants to attend medical school.

She is excited to compete in Miss California.

She said, “I’m staying in a hotel in Fresno during the competition, and I’ll check in on June 21.  Group A and B are on different days, and I’m in Group B so my on-stage competition is Wednesday, June 23.

“The categories will be talent, on-stage question, red carpet wear, and a closed interview.  On June 25, to be in the finals you have to make top 11 out of the 32 candidates, and then it will be narrowed down some more until the final two, and then they’ll announce who won.

“To prepare for Miss California, I have directors who are guiding me, but there is no actual behind-the-scenes team.  I’ve had help from my mom, including preparing me with practice interview questions, and she’s been amazing.  My sister title holders have helped me with advice because I’ve never competed at Miss California before.  My bio sister has been helpful too with her opinions, and I appreciate her too.  My grandmother has been great.

“We have an ad book, and we’re required to go out and get sponsors and normally we have to raise a certain amount.  I was able to raise more money than they expected.  I’ve collected sponsors and gotten a lot of help from the community, especially on the west side of the county.  The money goes toward the Miss California organization and they use it for things like scholarships, and they may use a small amount of it for production costs.”

Winning the local title

Pastori told the Times, “It was really exciting.  My family has a long-time history in Merced County, and it was great to be a part of that.  My grandpa was Jerry O’Banion, a County Supervisor for a long time who passed in February, and something very memorable about him for me is that when I won the title, he called me and told me how proud he was.  Winning the competition was so exciting like your own piece of history.

“The Miss Merced County competition was held at El Capitan High School in Merced.

“For my talent, I chose dance.  My mom put me in ballet and tap when I was little.  In junior high, I did cheer.  In high school, I was on dance teams and we went to Las Vegas and won awards.

“In the talent portion, I decided to jazz dance.  I got some help with choreography and music.  It’s my favorite genre because you can pick the most fun songs.  I picked ‘I Will Survive’ sung by Demi Lovato.

“My closed interview was a highlight for me.  It was with a panel of judges earlier in the day, and you discuss things like causes you care about, and I thought it was so fun to get to know all the judges and have them get to know me.  The time flew past.  I felt so good about the interview and was confident going into the evening.

“I had written on my fact sheet that I will eat pickles with anything because I love pickles, and I had a conversation with them about pickles which was really funny. They asked me about my social impact initiative which was Water Safety is For Everyone, and I shared with them why I was passionate about it.  In our area, there are lots of canals, and I feel that Merced County is specifically affected by near death experiences in canals every summer.

“My younger sister had a seizure in our pool at a very young age, and it was a freak accident.  My mom literally looked away for a second talking to her friend and when she looked back, my sister was at the bottom of the pool.

“My mom put us in swimming and wanted us to be swimmers and be fast.  We swam for 14 years and swam in championships and became lifeguards in the summer.

“Unfortunately, I couldn’t work on my water safety cause much because of COVID so I changed my social impact initiative [formerly known as platform] to Casa.  It’s the cause I advocate for.  I was able to raise over $700.  Being involved with Casa has been one of the highlights of my time as Miss Merced County.

“During the Miss Merced County Red Carpet Wear portion, I walked out, a bio was read about me, and I had picked a hot pink evening gown because I’m very much a hot pink type of girl so I felt on top of the world in my favorite color.

“Over the course of the night, I was being very realistic, knowing that I could lose, but I was also feeling pretty confident.  If I lost, it wasn’t going to be the end of my world.  I knew the other candidates were outstanding, and also felt good about my own performance.  I felt like we were all pretty even, so when I won, I was prepared but at the same time, I didn’t feel like I had it in the bag, and I felt so excited and happy.

“The women were some of the best I’ve ever met.  I never felt more celebrated for the things that actually matter in me than with these women and in this organization.  The Miss America organization actually celebrates the things that matter — love of others, self-love, service to others, kindness and school.  Those are the parts of women that need to be highlighted more.  The feeling was that these women were inviting me to do great things with them.  I think there’s a misconception that pageant girls are catty.  Each was so kind and special.  I’ve kept in touch with some of my new friends.”

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