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Tara Broderick was crowned Miss California, International Junior Miss 2018 in January in Downey, CA. (Ramuel Reyes/The Collegian)

Fresno State student crowned Miss California tackles bullying

If there’s one thing Tara Broderick, a business marketing and accounting student, has taken away from competing in pageants, it’s her newfound voice.

And as the newly-crowned Miss California, International Junior Miss 2018, she is using that voice to tackle bullying and to teach young girls about self-empowerment.

At first, Broderick, of Visalia, had no interest in competing in the pageant. But after finding pictures from her mother’s pageant days, she decided to give it a chance.

“I found out it’s much more than just wearing a tiara around your head,” she said. “It’s much more about community service and what you could give back. That’s when it really sparked my interest.”

Broderick was severely bullied in high school, she said, and that inspired her to start an anti-bullying campaign as part of her service as Miss California.  

In 2014, she launched her first series of anti-bullying books, “Princess Lucy Believe in Yourself.” She helped bring Breaking Down the Walls programs into some Central Valley schools, and she has worked with the visually impaired alongside her sorority, Delta Gamma.

“I love being a part of community service. I love the modeling opportunities. I love the fact that [competing] gives me scholarship opportunities to attend Fresno State and so much more,” she said. “I was like, ‘You know what? I can’t stop’ […] So I kept competing for Miss California, and I finally won this year.”

Broderick competed as Miss Central Valley. She said she worked hard on her speech and on her ability to carry confidence, something the judges like to see in contestants.

“I always thought just being personable was the key, but you really have to have that confidence to kind of exude yourself and show I’m more than someone you can talk to. I’m also someone that can lead,” she said.

As Broderick waited onstage with her friend and fellow finalist, Jordan, she almost didn’t realize she had won.

The winning contestant is announced by the number on her dress, followed by the display of her name. Broderick had left her number offstage.

“So I heard, ‘601, Tara Broderick is your new Miss California,’ and I was like, ‘Oh, I lost.’ Then I started hugging [Jordan] and she was like, ‘What are you doing? You just won!’ And I turned around and the tears just started flowing,” she said.

The moment was a big relief for Broderick. Her hard work had paid off through the struggle of self-doubt that she still faces after her years of being bullied.

“That’s one of my major flaws I still deal with when competing in pageants,” she said. “But I’ve realized the more I compete, the more I learn about myself and get training on how to build up my confidence and show off what qualities I have to other people.”

If anything, Broderick says, it’s motivated her to keep competing and eventually go on to win bigger titles. She has noticed that she is beginning to gain more and more confidence in herself. And she’s begun to feel like her voice matters.

As Miss California, Broderick plans to launch a second series of her anti-bullying books. She plans to open a nonprofit for the disabled to help them with the effects of bullying, and work on the upcoming Miss International pageant.

“If I happen to win that title, I plan on lobbying for more ways to bring awareness to bullying,” she said. “… [And] establish some type of law or system to protect those that have been bullied, those who have committed suicide from bullying and the families that are affected by it.”

Broderick said she will also work with other IJM California titleholders: Teen California, pre-Teen California, Junior Princess California and Princess California as their “delegated big sister.”

In an industry where it’s easy for women to tear each other down, Broderick hopes to lead those women and young girls with a sense of self-empowerment and female empowerment.

She would like to see more unity in the pageant system, like a sisterhood, she said, much like the one she’s found in her sorority and with her fellow California titleholders.

“It’s just wanting to make sure we’re united and that we’re building each other up, because if we don’t, who else is going to?” Broderick said. “It’s hard to achieve any of your goals if you don’t have that support system behind you.”