Asians winning beauty pageants

“I wouldn’t normally write/talk about beauty pageants …” oh, wait, I just might. But that’s how both the morning radio hosts that broke the news to me and Angry Asian Man introduced the news item. And countless other writers/reports did as well because we all want to think we are beyond that throw-back anti-feminist spectacle, don’t we?

Of course, I cheered at the thought of a woman of colour winning the crown and I’m not the least surprised there is a backlash. If social media did not exist, it would be in the comments of the CNN/Fox/news websites or hateful letters to the editor of newspapers. Flamers/haters/what-have-you naturally come out of the woodwork and hopefully got shamed. People who mindlessly posted ignorant comments, looking to see their opinions validated, hopefully learned something new. That generally, I think, the intolerance is a minority. Perhaps I just see things through rose-coloured glasses.

It was in the Angry Asian Man blog post “Indian American Woman Crowned 2014 Miss America” that I learned that the there were two other Asians amongst the five finalists. Way to go!

And so that lead me down the rabbit hole in two different ways. I was trying to recall the Miss Universe pageant I recall most clearly and found the Missology blog post “Asian domination at Miss Universe” published just earlier this year. Besides knowing that Miss Universe is part of the Trump organization (along with Miss Teen USA and Miss USA), I also know the socially conscious Miss America gets far less media buzz on a regular year. I have no idea what network runs it while – idiot that I am – I might make a point of watching Miss Universe because I do catch an advertisement for it. Meanwhile, the Miss America contestants are probably a lot more inspiring in their accomplishments and physique!

Winner, Nina Duvaluri (Miss New York), is a graduate of the University of Michigan with a degree in Brain Behavior and Cognitive Science. I think I read somewhere she wants to be a doctor. First runner-up (pageant speak for second place), Crystal Lee (Miss California) has two Stanford degrees – a bachelor in human biology and master in communications. Her platform is advocating the role of women in science and technology. Fourth runner-up, Rebecca Yeh (Miss Minnesota), is a native of Brainerd, MN – heh, sorry, being childish – and is currently studying towards a Doctorate in Pharmacology.

The other way I got a little obsessed was recalling “that pageant way back when when Asians dominated the finalists and Porntip won”. That would be Miss Universe 1988. We taped the show on VHS tape and I think I watched it upwards of 20 times. One of the hosts was Alan Thicke of Growing Pains and I probably enjoyed the tourism segment as the pageant took place in Taiwan that year. The five finalists (in descending winning order) included Porntip Nakhirunkanok (Miss Thailand), Chang Yoonjung (Miss Korea), Amanda Olivares (Miss Mexico), Mizuho Sakaguchi (Miss Japan), and Pauline Yeung (Miss Hong Kong). No wonder it was considered the “Year of the Far East Asians”!

And as a 1o-year-old little girl, I got the indelible notion that people I look like could be considered the most beautiful people in the world (and the next year, it was people I don’t look like but it’s all good). Truth be told, I dreamed of being the Chinese-American winner of Miss USA and make it an all-Asian finalist group! Yup, pipe dreams. :)


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