Ms. Sonoma County Shines at SRJC


Tyler Avery Mary Mowana Lewis visited the Oak Leaf to talk about winning the 2018 Miss Sonoma County pageant. Photo by Dakota McGranahan.

Lenita Marie Johnson, Staff Writer

Santa Rosa Junior College student and Black Student Union Vice President Tyler Avery Mary Mowana Lewis, won the 2018 Miss Sonoma County pageant, and now has her sights on winning the upcoming Miss America title.

“I’m not a gambling person, yet I didn’t see this coming,” she said after winning Miss Sonoma County.

Yet that’s a gamble she would have lost just a few weeks ago.

Although a lifelong dancer, she won the title not with her dancing shoes on, but with her outstanding vocals.

“Dance is my primary background. In fact, I was going to do a dance performance.Then at the last minute, I decided to sing a song. It was “At Last by the famous Etta James,” she said.

She won the 2018 Miss Sonoma County title.

“I was born in Novato and we moved to Sonoma County. I often feel like I’m from San Francisco because I spent so much time there. My grandparents owned their house on Thomas Street in San Francisco for over 60 years; that was our family house.”

Lewis said San Francisco will always have a place in her heart. She goes there every weekend.

“There’s a huge juxtaposition between life in the San Francisco and life here in the North Bay. There’s so much to do in the city and it’s really exciting!”

Lewis is a lifelong resident of Rohnert Park. Her parents own a home in the B Section.

“I had ten siblings but a couple passed away, God bless their spirits,” she said.

Though she misses her siblings, she smiles at the thought of them both.

Tony Ghiraldi is the general operations manager of Sonoma County Airport Express, a long-time partner and supporter of the Sonoma County beauty contest. He’s also the secretary and treasurer of the program.

“We are more than just a beauty contest,” he said. “It’s also a scholarship program, and I’ve been connected with it for about 20 years. I’m in charge of all the things it takes to shuttle Tyler throughout the area for her appearances and engagements as well as take care of all the details and make sure she’s taken care of.”

Ghiraldi is a major player in the competition on a daily basis.

He is in charge of all the community activities for Airport Express. The company firmly believes in the scholarship component of the beauty contest.

“Young ladies in Sonoma County are very fortunate to have this scholarship program available to them,” he said.

The beauty pageant is a whirlwind.

“In the first few months it’s pretty hectic. Tyler goes around meeting virtually all the local officials, visiting schools and businesses. Then there are the ribbon cuttings, events, special parties and everything that goes along with being Miss Sonoma County,” Ghiraldi said. “That includes attending lots of civic events as well. It brings a lot of respect to the title and the community.”

The “Rites of Passage” is a program for youth based out of Community Church in Santa Rosa. Lasting for nearly 10 months, the focus is having local teenagers as they develop into young adults. Lewis is a ROP graduate and attended the graduation this year at the GRATON Conference Center. She virtually went to every table and spoke with the guests.

Lewis smiles when talking about the competition. “I had no idea I would win.”