Grossmont High School alumna and SDSU student crowned 2014 Miss California USA

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Cassandra Kunze took home the title of Miss California USA 2014 earlier this month. The Grossmont High School honor graduate and current SDSU student is no stranger to pageants, or East County. She took the title of 2008 Mother Goose Parade Queen at 14 years old. She also served as Miss Teen San Diego County and Miss Teenage California in 2012.

Cassandra Kunze took home the title of Miss California USA 2014 earlier this month. The Grossmont High School honor graduate and current SDSU student is no stranger to pageants, or East County. She took the title of 2008 Mother Goose Parade Queen at 14 years old. She also served as Miss Teen San Diego County and Miss Teenage California in 2012.

Besides her girl-next-door beauty giving her a boost in pageant competition, Kunze’s dance background infused her with poise. Dancing with the California Ballet Company for 15 years as well as performing in theatre more than a year made the stage somewhat of a natural place for her. So the idea of being on stage did not really bother Kunze when she competed in the Miss Mother Goose pageant.

“What did frighten me was realizing that for the first time I had to be myself in front of a group of strangers rather than being a character in a ballet or play. No script or perfectly rehearsed words to say, simply my own thoughts and opinions,” she said. “That aspect truly challenged me to step out of my shell and claim my own individuality.”

In truth, Kunze could have been considered a “tom boy” growing up due to her clothing style and “goofy personality,” she said.

“I played baseball for three years with my two brothers and preferred to wear baseball tees to school—and often still do. I dreaded having to go try on dresses.”

The Mother Goose pageant was the first time Kunze put on a gown and heels. She said she would never forget the moment of walking onto that stage and feeling beautiful.

“I feel that I acquired a newfound confidence that helped me transition from a teenager into an adult,” she said.

Pageants are not as much a competition against other girls as it is a competition against herself, Kunze said. She eats healthier, keeps active, organizes her priorities and mentally prepares for interviews on ““stage in front of strangers.

Learning that her own insecurities caused her discomfort, Kunze said she “threw out the old garbage of insecurities and traded it in for a new self-confidence.”

Not only did she win Miss California USA, but also in the course of three days, she won new friends and reunited with old ones.

Kunze said she would like to clear up one of the bigger misconceptions about pageants, especially about the “mean girls” backstage. In the four pageants in which she has competed, Kunze said she never encountered any outright act of misconduct towards her or any other girl competing.

“We have fun and help each other out,” she said. “I cannot put on false eyelashes to save my life and I probably would have looked like an odd creature if some of the other contestants didn’t help me glue them on.”

 Yet all the pageantry has not taken the tomboyish joy out of Kunze’s life, as she still loves to run and be outdoors whenever possible. She also enjoys catching up on the newest movie releases and drinking soy vanilla lattes at Starbucks.

However, Kunze admitted that even though she is a San Diego native, she is terrified of the ocean.

“I tried conquering that fear by taking up paddle boarding last year. However, I realized that the only reason I enjoy paddle boarding is because the purpose of it is to stay out of the ocean water,” she said, laughing.

Kunze tackled a double major in Television, Film, and New and Conflict Resolution with an emphasis in Global Systems.

“It’s quite the mouthful, I know,” she said. 

But her passion is films.

“I have loved watching movies for as long as I can remember,” she said. “It wasn’t until I took theatre in high school that I realized how much I love being apart of a production, whether it’s planning the layout of a set, the technical aspects of lighting and sound, writing a script, or directing actors.”

Interpreting a story and putting it on film is, in Kunze’s view, is the most influential form of storytelling. 

“Pageants do not define who I am,” she said. “Just as I participated in ballet, played baseball, performed in theatre, and every other activity I have done, all of these things are simply pieces of my life, not the entirety. The one thing that they all seem to have in common is that they have helped to develop the person I am today and who I am becoming.”

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