Law school grad named Miss Encinitas USA


Encinitas resident Kimberly Keen was kicking around on the internet one day several months ago when she came across the website for Miss California USA.

Kimberly Keen
Kimberly Keen
(Siobhan Gazur Photography

Girlbossing Inc., which runs the competition, was accepting applications for the annual event scheduled this September in San Gabriel.

“I thought I could probably get into this and I submitted the application online,” Keen said. “It was quite literally a spur-of-the-moment decision. I think I was in bed on my computer watching Netflix and looking things up. I just kind of did it.”

A few weeks later, she received an email confirming she had been selected as Miss Encinitas USA, which qualifies her to vie for the Miss California USA crown.

“I had forgotten I had done it and it was very surprising,” Keen said. “I had never done a pageant before. It was kind of unexpected, but exciting.”

Most surprising is that her decision to pursue participation in what is partly a beauty pageant goes against the grain of her career path.

Keen, 27, is at the upper age limit for Miss California USA applicants. After graduating from La Jolla High, she moved to Encinitas with her parents, William Keen and Mary O’Boyle, both of whom are physicians.

She graduated with a bachelor’s degree from UCLA, recently earned a law degree from the USD and is preparing for the California bar exam..

Her resume sparkles with accomplishments, including numerous academic honors and scholarships. As a volunteer, she has aided people displaced by war in Syria, helped women and children in Guatemala and Mexico, and works with the Jiyan Foundation for Human Rights to spread awareness about ISIS victims in Iraq.

She works as a volunteer law clerk at the Vista courthouse’s family law office.

While Keen had plenty of qualifications to list on the Miss California USA application form, she did not seek advice from family or friends about whether to try it. Nor did she tell anyone until after she received confirmation she had been selected Miss Encinitas USA.

Keen said the first person she informed was probably her mom.

“She was like, ‘Oh really, you got into Miss California USA? I didn’t know that,” Keen said. “I told my friends and all that, and it was fun.

“I think they were surprised, and surprised that I had done it now. But I think they thought I could do something like this. I think it was actually more surprising that I hadn’t done something like this sooner.”

Longtime family friend Linda K. Olson has known Keen since her mother was pregnant with her.

“I worked with her mother,” Olson said. “We were both radiologists at UCSD. I watched her grow up and I’ve employed her helping around my house. ...

“Kimmi was a dancer and she loved ballet. Every year at Christmas, she would be in the Nutcracker production downtown in the children’s part. ... She was exuberant, lively — the kind of kid you liked watching.”

Olson said she recalls learning from a social media post the news that the young woman who used to house-sit for her family is Miss Encinitas USA.

“I stopped and I looked at it, and I thought, ‘Kimmi, good for you,’” Olson said. “Then I thought, ‘Is this a joke?’ I got off Instagram and got on the internet to make sure somebody wasn’t pulling my leg. I texted her back immediately and said, ‘That is amazing. I am delighted.”

Olson reflected that in earlier years beauty pageants had come to be regarded as demeaning to women because of their concentration on female appearance.

“I think what has happened in the past few years is people have viewed them as an avenue to put forth their ideas and to take their projects and get more of a platform for them,” Olson said. “It’s a a different era than I grew up in where you didn’t want to be thought of as just a pretty face. I think that’s the way she sees it and I think she’s going to be fabulous at it.”

If Keen were to be crowned Miss California USA, she could receive more than $100,000 in gifts, cash and scholarships, including the official crown and sash, according to a news release from Girlbossing.

The winner qualifies for the Miss USA pageant, for which they will receive round-trip air fare. Miss USA would then be eligible to compete for Miss Universe.

Girlbossing’s release states the firm “is organized for women, by women, to be about women, empowering female voices in all areas of life.”

The release says Keen’s selection “was based on her academic and professional interests, involvement in her community, her passion for the pursuits of excellence and her interest in empowering other young women to follow in her footsteps.”

Keen said the focus on women and social issues was a factor that drew her to the participate.

“There’s a humanitarian element,” she said. “I think it’s important going into the competition that it doesn’t have to be about me. It can be about others.”

Yet, in addition to the intellectual and beauty components, the Miss California USA competitions also value talent in the arts, another reason Keen was attracted to participate.

“Growing up, I was classically trained in ballet and I was classically trained in piano,” Keen said. “I love to perform. I always thought it was something that I would end up pursuing.

“But I ended up going to college and pursuing law. So it was a delayed pursuit but inevitable, because I always loved performing and the pageant is essentially that.”

Yet, Keen doesn’t envision herself dancing or playing piano at the September showcase.

“I’ll probably do singing,” she said. “My dad’s a jazz musician (on the side). My grandpa’s a jazz musician. I like to sing with them and we do some recordings here and there. So, I will probably sing for the talent portion.”

Meanwhile, Keen is seeking sponsors to help her cover fees and other costs related to participation. Those who are interested can go to her GoFundMe page at