Love, Unity & the Beauty of California


The story behind the Miss California USA and Miss California Teen USA Crowns


Alyssa Campanella, Miss California USA 2011 with her INTA Crown. Photo courtesy of INTA Gems

Alice McDermott (@awondermott) asked us on twitter why are the #misscaliforniausa girls crowned with different crowns than the state ones?

Well, Alice, that was a great question – so we went in search of your answer!

Since 2009, renowned jewelry designer Peter Young has designed the Miss California USA and Miss California Teen USA crowns. Young is the Creative Director of INTA Gems and Diamonds in Los Angeles, California. We had a wonderful opportunity to talk to Peter about his unique and meaningful designs and the Love is Louder campaign.

Pageant Professors: How did you link up with the Miss California USA system in 2009?

Peter Young: People ask me this all the time!  In high school, I sat next to Rebekah Ann Keller, who became both Miss California (America) and Miss California USA. Years later, Keylee Sanders, Executive Director of Miss California USA organization, approached my family to be California state sponsors and we did.  Since then, we have worked very closely with all the titleholders and became the official crown jeweler of Miss California USA.

Pageant Professors: The crowns you designed for the California USA queens are stunning! Tell us about the designs and what was your inspiration?

PY: I designed the Miss California USA Crown to not only be beautiful, but to have special meaning as well. Sapphires are beautiful, hard, resilient gemstones that will endure the test of time.

Sketch of the Miss California USA Crown Design. Photo courtesy of INTA Gems

For 2011, I designed the Miss California Teen USA Crown which has a similar style to the senior Miss California USA Crown.  However, the Teen Crown incorporates a rising sun in the center symbolizing the dawn of a brighter day and future.  There are fancy yellow diamonds that represent radiant sun rays shining upon a curving California coastline. The design elements derived by the natural beauty of California incorporates glistening waves and vivid sun rays which together form a heart outline to symbolize LOVE.
In addition, there are natural purple sapphires that are set in the crown in memory of the teens who have taken their own lives because of bullying.  The purple color is a reminder to all the Miss California Teen USAs who wear the crown to not forget their pain and to speak out on their behalf.

The Official Miss California USA 2011 Crown Designed by Peter Young

The Official Miss California USA 2011 Crown Designed by Peter Young. Photo courtesy of INTA Gems

The heart that symbolizes love of the Miss California Teen USA Crown is not noticeably visible at first, but if you look closely at the waves and sun rays of the crown, you will see that they together form a heart in the center. We encourage young people who are bullied and harassed for any reason, we encourage you to seek out and share your feelings with your friends, family, school faculty. Together, loved ones in the center of children who are bullied can actively speak out and find ways to stop the bullying.

I’m so proud to have worked closely with you on the promoting the Love is Louder movement.  Love is Louder was started by actress Brittany Snow, The Jed Foundation and MTV to build on the outpouring of support online after the lives of multiple teenagers were lost to suicide in September 2010. The movement strives to amplify the momentum of other inspiring online campaigns and invite anyone who has felt mistreated, misunderstood or isolated into the conversation

The crowns are passed on year-to-year to each Miss California USA and Miss California Teen USA.

Pageant Professors: Is it true that the California USA titleholders also receive rings?

PY: Yes! They are limited-edition, exclusive, historical and inspired by the Miss California USA and Miss California Teen USA crowns that I designed. There is a night and day theme to the crowns and they tell a story.

Miss California USA ring design sketch, photo courtesy of INTA Gems

To date there are seven rings: the first presented to Nicole Nicole Johnson, Miss California USA 2010. Shanna Moakler received Ring #2. Keylee Sanders, Executive Director of Miss California USA Organization received Ring #3. Alyssa Campanella, Miss USA received Ring #4,  Katie Blair, Miss California USA 2011 and Miss Teen USA 2006, received Ring #6. Ring #7 will be archived at the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) Museum in the spring of 2011 for historical purposes. Keith Lewis, Executive Director of the Miss California USA, has a special crown ring is inspired by the Miss California Teen USA crown designed for 2011. We playfully nicknamed Keith’s ring “The Big Boss Ring.”

We plan to make future rings, but only for titleholders at the end of their reign and Directors of Miss California USA. This ring design will never be sold to the public.

Miss California USA ring, photo courtesy of INTA Gems

Replicas of the rings are also destined for the GIA Museum which is one of the most prestigious gem museums in the world.   I hope when people hear the story, it continues our messages of “love, unity and the beauty of California.”

Pageant Professors: Did you ever think in your wildest dreams you’d be collaborating with pageantry to promote civil rights movements including NoH8 and “It Gets Better?”

PY: I always wished that there was someone that would stand up for me but in 2009 I realized I had to stand up for myself. Some kids grow up with the same fear of being hurt, especially gay ones.  I knew that given the choice to say something or not, I had to say something with my design.  I had to send a message about love, unity and the beauty of California.

Pageant Professors: The piece you wrote on was very moving and we really appreciate how much you shared about your own life experiences. Celebrities such as Lady Gaga are also making their battles public. Clearly bullying is not a new phenomenon. Why do you think there is such momentum in recent years about cases of bullying in the media?

PY: Words are powerful.  When someone needs help, they seek counseling or therapy.  Mostly, words help heal.  And I also know from personal experience that words can hurt, especially as a young child or a teenager.

Peter Young with Miss USA 2011, Alyssa Campanella. Photo courtesy of INTA Gems

I’m at a stage in my life where I know that I am loved.  I have so many people that care for me, but it took a lot of work.  It was incredibly hard as a young person to really find your place in the world.   And I just wanted my piece for Amplify Your Voice to let others know they are not alone and that it does get better.

Pageant Professors: You say you were able to mask a lot of the hurt you were feeling with smiles and good grades. What is your advice to those that are silently struggling with bullying?

PY: Steve Jobs once said, “My mortality is my motivation.”  As a gay kid who was bullied and who thought about suicide during high school, and still seeing it in the news, I know that my life on this earth will come to an end eventually.  I feel I have to do as much as I possibly can do with my own abilities before I leave this earth.

For kids who are struggling, there are a lot of online resources now.  You can find some at   It’s different for everybody because each individual has to deal with it in their own way based on their family, the people around them, and their community.

My way of dealing with it was knowing that I needed to make myself better, learn more, be a better person.  Get through that day and know that love is louder than the pressure to be perfect.

Pageant Professors: What do you think compels an individual or group of individuals to bully others?

PY: I actually think some people are natural born bullies.  They are driven to do it.   Others do it because they think it’s fun, exciting or because of the peer pressure to conform.  I think as kids, people are trying to find their place, and it’s a form of putting people in place to get what they want.

Pageant Professors: Combatting bullying is not going to be easy and its not going to happen overnight. What can we do today to support this cause?

PY: It’s going to take a lot of time changing the way that people think about protecting young people from this.  I think the most important thing is to really look after the kids that are being bullied.  If one sees a kid that is bullied, try to do something to stop it.  If you see a kid that my hurt themselves for any reason, talk to them, try to get them help.  Show love to these people.

Miss USA 2011, Alyssa Campanella, with the INTA Gems Team. Photo courtesy of INTA Gems

Pageant Professors: Anything else you want to mention?

PY: I’d like to say a very special “Thank you” to Nicole, Prita, Allie and Courtney for highlighting this important issue.   While visiting the Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem Israel in 2009, I prayed for people to treat others who are “different” and “unique” like myself in a good way. I am happy to know that the world is working together to do just that.

Are you using your crown to promote a cause? Tell us about it!

Have a unique pageant question? Ask us and we’ll find the answer!

For more information on Peter Young visit the INTA Gems website

For more information on Love is Louder visit

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