Miss California Arianna Afsar – a resident of Rancho Penasquitos and 2009 graduate of Westview High School – finished as a top 10 finalist in the 2011 Miss America competition in January on national television.

An aspiring actress and singer (she made the final 36 as an “American Idol” contestant in 2009), Afsar spent two weeks in Las Vegas with 52 other competitors preparing for the live Miss America broadcast from the Planet Hollywood Casino. During the competition, she sang the romantic ballad “I (Who Have Nothing).”

Prior to the broadcast, Afsar answered questions for 92129 Magazine about her experiences growing up in the community, serving as Miss California, and preparing to compete for the Miss America title:

Question: How did you get involved in pageant competitions?

Answer: I entered the Miss America Organization when I was 13 years old in the teen program, originally thinking it was a talent competition. When I went to the orientation I realized it was much more. Never did I think that a competition could provide so much for young women even before the winner was announced. I learned how to be mature and well-spoken through interview, how to think quickly on my feet through onstage questions, how to be confident and poised through evening wear, how to improve and perfect my talent, and how important it is to be fit and healthy. I ended up getting first runner-up as the youngest contestant to the first ever Miss America’s Outstanding Teen representing California. From that moment I knew that I wanted to compete for Miss America. Finally when I was old enough, five years later, I competed for Miss San Diego County and went on to win Miss California.

Question: What during your experience growing up in PQ and attending Westview High School prepared you to compete and serve as Miss California?

Answer: Growing up in a close community really helped me to be successful in competing and serving as Miss California. The people here are so supportive and helpful in every activity in PQ. At Westview choir concerts, Mesa Verde variety shows, Canyon View talent showcases, the PQ Idol competition, the Cinco De Mayo street fair, and the Miss PQ pageant, I always saw the same familiar smiling faces that helped motivate me to strive for more. The support that PQ provides for each and every determined young adult is truly admirable.

Question: What are the biggest challenges about being Miss California?

Answer: The biggest challenge as Miss California is taking time off of school. I have completed a year of college at UCLA and I absolutely love the environment and education I have received. Being Miss California, preparing for Miss America, and going to school would be impossible – but I know the sacrifice of taking a leave of absence for a short time is absolutely worth it. I am learning so much from the people I meet, the experiences, the opportunities, and the new adventures. These skills I am gaining cannot be taught at school. I also am vying for more scholarship money in addition to the $35,000 I have earned thus far, which is an added bonus.

Question: How did you prepare for the Miss America competition?

Answer: (The last few months of 2010)…my life was dedicated to preparing for Miss America. Every event that I attended, I was growing and each person I met – whether they were older or younger or more educated or successful – I knew I was learning. My healthy diet and daily exercise with my weight trainer and Pilates trainer became habit and not a chore anymore. I stayed up to date with current events with my interview coach by reading the newspaper and watching the news on TV, which became enjoyable. I graduated and attended extra Dale Carnegie courses to improve my confidence in public speaking. I did countless mock interviews, increased my vocal lessons, practiced my walk, went to South Carolina to have a renowned designer design my wardrobe, shopped a lot with my wardrobe consultant, and I had the time of my life. The Miss California Organization did everything they could to make sure each girl felt as ready as possible.

Question: Did you have friends and family attending the Miss America competition?

Answer: Absolutely; my parents (Muhammad Afsar and Karin Schumacher) are my backbone and have made me who I am today. They have instilled my morals and values and I couldn’t have it any other way then to see their smiling faces in the audience. My favorite uncle flew down for the show and my great aunt and uncle drove from Sacramento to cheer me on! Also my aunt and uncle, Jan and Jim, were there to support me. Jan in particular has been there for me since I was a teen five years ago for Miss America’s Outstanding Teen in Orlando. She trekked to Phoenix and Hollywood when I was on American Idol, supported me at Miss San Diego and Miss California, and has been to every competition in between.