Ms. California US America Jewell Farshad chases her immigrant dream in Playa Vista
By Shanee Edwards
In the era of #MeToo and #Times-Up, the world of beauty pageants may seem like a throwback to a different time. But pageant winner and Playa Vista resident Jewell Farshad has a different take. For her, pageants have been about building confidence, finding her voice and empowering other women.
Born and raised in Iran, Farshad moved to Los Angeles by herself when she was just 19. Though being alone in a new culture was difficult at first, she says, “It was my dream to move to the States, where I could have a career and be who I want without the government having a say.”
So far, it seems Farshad’s dream is coming true. Last August, the actress and model was crowned Ms. California US America 2018, and the work has started rolling in. A commercial for Google and a music video with Snoop Dogg are just a couple of the jobs she’s landed. And no word from the government, as of yet. She attributes her success to competing in pageants.
“I’ve always been very shy,” says Farshad, “and I actually never thought I would want to do a pageant because there’s a stigma with pageant girls being over the top and not very smart. But when my pageant director reached out to me, I started getting to know all the girls and I realized it’s actually really different. These girls have a career. These women have goals and are helping each other get to where they want to go.”
Like most women, Farshad’s experienced sexual harassment — particularly when looking for acting and modeling jobs. Luckily, pageants have provided a much-needed support system.
“I felt that if I refused men or people in power I would never get hired as an actress again. But just going back [to the pageant world], having that support from the women and my pageant coach is so great. If I told them ‘I was just harassed by this guy’ or if a Harvey Weinstein-type thing happened, my coach definitely has my back. She’s not going to tell me to silence my voice. She’s going to tell me to speak up.”
To win her crown, Farshad was judged on her resume of charity work, answering questions about current events, but also walking the stage in a gown and, of course, a swimsuit — an experience she describes not as objectifying, but empowering. These days, she says, it’s not about looking flawless; it’s about looking real.
“One lady had breast cancer and both of her breasts had been removed. There was a 50-year-old woman who said, ‘You know what? I haven’t been in a bikini on stage for a very long time, and I feel good! I feel great about myself,’” Farshad recalls. “You don’t have to have a perfect body, it’s about having that confidence to go up there, walk, make eye contact and show the world who you really are.”
While auditions and shoots are keeping Farshad busy for now, she does have some big long-term goals.
“I’d like to be a spokesperson for the U.S. Embassy or the UN. One of the people I look up to is Amal Clooney. She’s gorgeous, smart and she defends human rights throughout the world. She’s put her own life in danger to rescue women.”
Like many other millennials, Farshad values community, volunteering and pursuing her dreams — all things that pageants have helped her do, so it makes sense winning a crown means more to her than simply a validation of her good looks.
“Pageants are about more than being a beauty queen. We are empowering each other to get out there, be CEOs and run companies.”
Follow @Jewell_Negin on Twitter and Instagram.