Miss California USA crowned in Palm Desert
PALM DESERT — Natalie Pack, a 22-year-old woman who plans to attend medical school, was crowned Miss California USA 2012 Sunday night in a pageant at McCallum Theatre.
Moments after the diamond-studded tiara was placed upon her head, Pack was surrounded by admirers and photographers, and was asked how she felt.
“Surreal,'' Pack said, as she flashed a radiant smile.
For Pack, a 6-foot-tall candidate who likes bicycling, motorcycling and oil painting, and competed as Miss Hoag Hospital, the crowning capped a weekend long journey with more than 400 other contestants for Miss California USA titles.
The runner-up in the event that played to a full house was Miss Malibu, Brie Gabrielle.
Brian Worley, who was one of the judges, a co-owner of YourBASH!, said 278 young women competed for this title. The others in the group of 400 participated in Miss California USA and Miss California Teen USA 2012 crowns.
“I think the judges did an amazing job narrowing the final candidates down,” Worley said. “Our finalists are very impressive.”
Miss LA Native Frankie Vegas described the new Miss California USA 2012 as a great person. “She's whole-hearted, honest — real,” Vegas said. “She's got the qualities to represent California well.”
As the finalists congratulated one another on stage, Gabrielle's grandmother beamed and clutched a poster with Brie's picture and name. “I'm so proud of her,” Evelyn Gabrielle said of the 22-year-old who attends Pepperdine University and wants to be an entertainment lawyer some day.
Crowned Miss California Teen 2012 was Alexa Jones, representing Orange County.
“I feel awesome. I'm so excited, and so calm,'' Jones said as she took the stage. “It was a very tough weekend but it was very rewarding.”
Miss California USA publicist Kenn Henman said the McCallum was sold out. The pageant attracted so many people, he said a room was rented at the Renaissance Esmeralda in Indian Wells to handle the overflow.
Last year's Miss California USA winner, Alyssa Campanella, moved on to win the Miss USA crown and be a top 16 semifinalist at the Miss Universe 2011 pageant.
This year's event achieved distinction as one having two openly gay contestants for the first time in the history of the state pageant: Jenelle Hutcherson of Long Beach and Mollie Thomas of West Hollywood.
Finalists for the Miss California USA 2012 title, in addition to Gabrielle, were: Jenny Ting, second runner up, Miss Diamond Crest; Agueela Zoll, third runner up, Miss Carmel; and Brittany McGowan, fourth runner up, Miss Beverly Hills.
Finalists for the Miss Teen USA 2012 title were: Cassidy Marie Wolf, first runner up, Miss Riverside County Teen; Tanita Morgan, second runner up, Agoura Hills Teen; Rachael Maurer, third runner up, Los Angeles County Teen; and Chloe Hatfield, fourth runner up, Southern Counties Teen.