By Michelle Witte
The bright lights and charged atmosphere of beauty pageants fulfill the dreams of many young girls as they compete for the prestige of becoming a beauty queen.
For Jessica Garcia, 20, a UVSC student, this dream includes not only the honor of being crowned Miss Latina Utah, but the opportunity to help improve the lives of those within the Hispanic community in Utah.
“I think every little girl dreams of winning some type of a beauty contest or being a queen or a princess,” Garcia said. “So for me it”s a dream come true to know that I worked really hard at something and to be able to accomplish it.”
Garcia was crowned on Aug. 28 in the Libby Gardner Hall at the University of Utah. She competed against seven other girls from across Utah.
“I wasn”t sure if I was going to win or not,” Garcia said. “You”re excited and you”re nervous all at the same time. I”m just really happy.”
Garcia was born in Sonora, Mexico, but immigrated to the United States with her family when she was 3 years old. Her parents came to study at BYU and she has since lived in the state for most of her life.
A communications student at UVSC, Garcia hopes to use her pageant experience to jump-start her career in broadcasting. She said she plans to transfer to BYU winter semester 2005.
“I thought (the pageant) would be a good opportunity to learn,” Garcia said. “They give you a lot of opportunities to do broadcasting and commercials.”
But the most exciting part of being Miss Latina Utah is the impact that she can have as a positive role model in the Hispanic community, she said.
Garcia said she wants to help the Latino community in Utah by, “setting an good example, being a good role model for younger girls and being proud of who I am, being proud of my culture.”
Chris Davis, now the state pageant director, started the pageant three years ago. He organized the event to the support the local Hispanic community and to promote a better image of Utah”s largest immigrant population.
Finalists from 48 states will compete in the national competition next spring in Cancun, Mexico. If Garcia wins, she will have the opportunity of competing in the international competition later in the year.
Speaking at the Festival Latino Americano Monday, Garcia told the mainly Hispanic audience of her desire to strengthen their common cultural heritage during her reign as Miss Latina Utah.
“It makes me happy to know that we as youth are doing something to preserve our Latin culture and preserve our customs,” Garcia told the audience in Spanish.
Also, the pageant has given the opportunity to improve herself, Garcia said. She wants to share with others these possibilities for growth and personal change that come from such life-altering experiences.
“It”s set the standard for my future,” Garcia said. “Knowing that you should never put limits on yourself, never underestimate your potential. You know that nothing is impossible and if you work really hard at something you will get it.”