Amanda Alissa Perez, Miss Pasadena, is a senior majoring in cognitive neuroscience and international relations at Occidental College.
Anavictoria Pumphrey, Miss South Pasadena, is in her second year of studying both architecture and business administration at Pasadena City College.
“It takes an overachieving personality type for doing pageants,” said Perez, 21.
Perez and Pumphrey participated in the first round of competition on Saturday night.
Pageant officials will crown Miss California USA, who will go on to represent the state in February’s Miss USA pageant, after a second round of competition on Sunday.
Pumphrey, 20, was born at Huntington Memorial Hospital in Pasadena and attended South Pasadena public schools.
Perez is a native of Houston who has acclimated to Southern California the past four years.
“I even like tofu now,” she joked.
Pumphrey mixes modeling work with retail, catering and tutoring jobs as well as a part-time sales gig at a solar energy company.
“I never considered myself a pageant girl,” said Pumphrey. “But I decided to go for it because even if I don’t win the crown, I’ll gain skills to become a more confident and stronger person.”
Preparations for the pageant have taught Pumphrey about dealing with high-pressure situations, she said.
Perez, who assisted Pasadena Mayor Bill Bogaard during the city’s holiday tree-lighting ceremony in November, said she is competing in order to encourage community engagement among college students.
“Everyone who applies to college has community service on their resumes, but then [volunteering] usually falls by the wayside,” she said.
Perez has used her Miss Pasadena title to raise money and attention for Great Strides, a volunteer program at Occidental pairs collegiate mentors with elementary school students in Los Angeles.
The afterschool program encourages healthy eating and exercise habits, said Perez, a Great Strides organizer.
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