The elegantly decorated room filled with applause and whispers of approval as Natasha Martinez answered the interview question that would win her the title of Miss California USA 2015.
It was in that moment that Martinez, a ’14 Chapman alumna, knew she had a chance at achieving her dream of winning the annual beauty pageant.
“She’s not just somebody to look up to for her accomplishments or for her physical beauty, but also for the person that she is and the heart that she has and the things that she gives back,” said Jessica Goldman, a ’14 television and broadcast journalism alumna. “She’s such a good role model, so she deserves this more than anyone.”
After completing her degree in television and broadcast journalism in December, Martinez took part in her fourth Miss California USA pageant Jan. 11 to try one last time at achieving her dream of taking home the crown.
Martinez represented Santa Anita Park and won the title after competing against 117 other women in an interview, swimsuit and evening gown competitions.
She is now preparing to compete in the Miss USA pageant, which will be held in June. The winner of Miss USA 2015 will go on to compete against other country representatives in the Miss Universe pageant.
“Miss USA was always a far away dream and so the fact that it’s in five months is pretty crazy to wrap my mind around,” Martinez said. “There’s definitely some nerves and excitement but I definitely feel pretty confident going into the competition.”
Martinez has been performing since she started dancing at 5 years old, and has been playing the piano since she was 9 years old.
When she was 17, Martinez competed in her first beauty pageant, Miss Pan-American International.
“I think because I wasn’t super stressed about the pageant and it was just more about having fun, I ended up winning and so after that the ball started rolling,” Martinez said.
Now 23, Martinez said she never would have thought she would one day be Miss California USA.
Martinez said the most intimidating part of the competition was being interviewed in front of a panel of nine judges.
“I’ve always been super comfortable on stage, so the bikini and the evening gown are nothing for me because it’s so fun,” Martinez said. “But the final question, it really can make or break you.”
In preparation for the Miss USA pageant, Martinez is exercising both her body and mind by eating well, hiring a personal trainer and working on her public speaking skills.
“I really wanted to focus on fine tuning the characteristics that make me unique and bring that to the table for Miss USA,” Martinez said. “They’re looking for a spokesmodel to promote their brand, so they want a girl who is going to be friendly, approachable and smart.”
Martinez views the pageant not as a competition against the other women, but a competition against herself.
In fact, she said her favorite part about participating in beauty pageants is meeting the women.
“It’s honestly like that’s my sorority, since I didn’t get into Greek life at Chapman,” Martinez said. “There are all these negative ideas about pageant girls being catty but I haven’t experienced that in my pageant career—just love and genuine support.”
Martinez said she has received a great deal of support from her fans, family and friends.
Senior film production major Daniel Burke has been dating Martinez since April and has supported her throughout this process.
“It’s surreal because to me, first and foremost, she’s always Natasha and it’s awesome because this has been her dream since before she met me,” Burke said. “I love seeing her smile, so I was just looking at her and not really paying attention to the sash.”
To help Martinez relax, Burke would plan dates and bring her sweet treats.
“She loves dark chocolate peanut butter cups from Trader Joe’s and red licorice,” Burke said. “Just the perfect thing you need when you’re working out a lot and trying to get ready to wear a swimsuit.”
Goldman became friends with Martinez at Chapman and was also in the audience at the Miss California USA pageant.
“Natasha is the epitome of what it means to be beautiful inside and out,” Goldman said. “I think there are a lot of girls who are rooting for other girls to fail but Natasha is one of those rare people that really wants to see other people in her life succeed.”