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MS&E coterm takes on women’s leadership, pageants
Courtesy of Jacqueline Wibowo

MS&E coterm takes on women’s leadership, pageants

Public policy major and management science and engineering coterm Jacqueline Wibowo ’18 M.S. ’18 — also known as Miss San Jose 2018 — sat down with The Daily to talk about the community service initiatives she is pursuing this year and what being Miss San Jose means to her. Beyond her academics, philanthropy and pageantry endeavors, Wibowo has conducted social entrepreneurship research and sings a cappella. She has also worked in investment banking. Wibowo will compete for the Miss California title from June 27 to 30 in Fresno, California.

 

The Stanford Daily (TSD): What made you decide to start participating in Miss America competitions?

Jacqueline Wibowo (JW): In high school, I was involved in a similar program called America’s Junior Miss [now called America’s Distinguished Young Women]. At the time, I thought I wanted to have a career in broadcast journalism, so I thought it would be a great way to practice for that and earn some scholarship money.

In that program, I met a ton of girls who had done the Miss America program, so it was always in the back of my mind, but it takes up a lot of time if you really want to put in a lot of effort into it. So I waited until senior year, when I had a job lined up, to compete. This was my first year competing in the Miss America organization, and the Miss San Jose program was the first exposure I had to it.

The Miss America program is unique in that it’s service based — if you’re a local titleholder, you’re a spokesperson for the Children’s Miracle Network, and for a personal platform of your choice.

TSD: What is your personal platform?

JW: Mine is “SheEO’s — Women in Leadership.” I think that came from my experiences being a female in a lot of male-dominated fields. I found a lot of subconscious biases in the workplace — for example, at a place I worked, there was a high level female executive CC’ed on this email, and all the males who were going to that meeting automatically assumed that she was a secretary and sent her all the scheduling stuff. I’ve always loved fashion and dressing up, but I realized that if I wore more makeup and colorful clothing in the corporate world, [some] would assume that I was better at people-facing, client-facing [roles], but not good with factual, technical parts of the job.

It really helps to see women in leadership, women in power who can help lift you up. A big part of my platform is helping young professional women, usually college-aged or a little bit older, build their networks and connect them to people who are doing the things that they want to be leading in the future. The other part is … more for younger girls who are elementary school-aged to high school-[aged]. I was lucky enough that I had a lot of mentors growing up, and I’ve been going to high schools and helping build out leadership curriculums.

[In] an elementary school class, for example, I taught a lesson about how you can raise your hand more in class, how you can speak more. It starts with little things like that, helping [young girls] be able to assert themselves in a situation. I want them to grow up and feel like they can reach whatever dream they have.

TSD: How does it feel to now be the role model for those little girls?

JW: I’ve really appreciated being a role model for younger girls. I think it’s so special to be a part of a young girl’s development at an age where you can change her perspective on things.

You forget how much litle girls want to be princesses, and they get really excited when they see the [Miss San Jose] crown. I literally walked by a group of girls, and I just said hello, and as I was leaving I realized they had formed a line, and they were just watching me. I ended up staying 30 minutes just signing autographs, which I have never done before.

They asked me a lot of really funny questions — things like, “Do you have a boyfriend? Do you wear makeup?” Those sound like easy questions that you could answer off the top of your head, but you have to understand that you’re talking to girls at a time where they are being influenced by so many different things.

I remember telling them, “I do wear makeup, but I only started wearing it in high school, and I only wear a little bit,” and “You shouldn’t be worried about who thinks you are cute right now because you are strong and independent.”

TSD: When you meet these kids, what is the one message that you want them to walk away with?

JW: The big thing is to just be themselves. I realized early on that as a titleholder and also as a Stanford student, there’s a lot of pressure to be the perfect role model, to say the exact right thing. But I think when you are more approachable and when you show that you are not perfect, that young girl or young boy feels like they can relate to you even more.

I want to inspire young girls, and anyone who I meet, with the fact that a Miss America titleholder, a “princess,” is not necessarily perfect, but she is striving to be the best in every part of her life. And preparing for Miss California is about being the best version of yourself that you can be. It’s really redefined the way I view health, practicing my interview skills and being able to embrace my personal style.

TSD: There are some parts of pageantry that at first glance can seem opposed to parts of your platform the emphasize empowering women and helping women lead. You talked about how if you wear a lot of makeup in the workplace, men especially might not take you as seriously. So what would you say to people who might say pageants are misogynistic?

JW: First off, I will say I am not the most comfortable with the swimsuit portion. Some girls are, but I cannot wait to get off the stage when I’m in my swimsuit. But I think for me at least, feminism means that women can be empowered to do anything that they want to do, and people will support them, just like you would support a man.

I think if a man wanted to do a bodybuilding competition, all his bros would be like, “Yeah, you’re the man!” But if you are a girl, suddenly it’s a problem if you want to do a swimsuit competition. I think that for some reason there’s this view that someone who is a female leader has to have a certain personality. They have to not be as feminine; they can’t love fashion and also love tech.  It is obviously a hard question and it comes up a lot, but I’m thankful that it comes up because it is an opportunity for me to share what I think feminism really is.

TSD: What do you want to get out of the remainder of your time as Miss San Jose?

JW: Knowing that I’m going to be working in New York after graduation, I don’t think I’ll have a lot of time to compete. So for me I really see it as … my one time to be Miss San Jose.

I’ve been at Stanford four years, but because it’s such a bubble I don’t think I’ve gotten to know any of the neighboring communities that well. So being able to actually get to know the community outside of Stanford, and getting to meet the people, and being able to support and give back to this community has really been the highlight of my year, and I’ve prioritized that just as much as preparing for [the Miss California] competition.

The biggest thing is I want to reach more girls. I think I see myself growing with every single appearance and every single person I meet. All the things that Miss America stands for are things I want to take with me as I enter my adult life. I just want to come out of it as a better version of myself.

 

Contact Adesuwa Agbonile at adesuwaa@stanford.edu.