If you thought I left my days of Asian American community activities
(and activism) behind with Altra... SURPRISE, I'm back. My newest
incarnation is US Image Director of ATV's Miss Asia pageants.
I know, I know...
Try not to judge! Before you start erasing my name from your list of favorite AA feminists give me a chance.
When I think of beauty pageants this quote from my favorite Asian American comedienne, Margaret Cho comes to mind:
"It's this idea of beauty as being a rumor that becomes true in the re-telling."
up, blissfully living the American Dream in a predominantly caucasian
suburb, I was never what you might call "disadvantaged." And I won't
lie and say that I didn't have a healthy perception of my physical
appearance either. My aunts and uncles doted on me, always suggesting
that I'd grow up and compete in Hong Kong for one of the coveted beauty
queen tiles. Or that I'd be Miss Chinatown, Houston.
in itself poses an interesting question: Why do I have to travel to
Hong Kong to be beautiful? Why am I only beautiful within the confines
of Chinatown? I didn't even live in Chinatown! Seeing nothing but Texas
blond beauty queens on TV didn't help either. It was exciting for me if
there was a brunette Miss America (Lynda Carter!), because that was the
closest thing to an American role model who looked like me, and was
praised for her beauty and to a certain extent, her intelligence.
This brings us back to what Margaret said.
of those beauty pageants that my aunts and uncles fantasized that I
would fly off to Hong Kong and compete in, ATV's Miss Asia, founded in
1985, is now acknowledging that there is a significant and important
Asian population here in the United States. Originally only open to Los
Angeles women, the competition is now open to New York and San
Francisco, for the first time in the three years ATV has invited the US
to send a representative over. We now get three representatives, three
ladies to send to Asia and show how Asians who grow up in the United
States are awesome enough to act as a representative of Asian
awesomeness to the world.
So how does what Margaret said apply
to Miss Asia in America, especially because it's still "Miss Asia," and
especially because the girls who win the 3 US regionals still go to
Hong Kong to compete for the final titles?
Well, because we
aren't Asians in Hong Kong. We are Americans. We are ambassadors of our
community, of our country. And the ladies who are chosen here, in the
process of being chosen, they rally the community around them, they
become role models.
Now that there are three regional
competitions, the access has tripled. Girls from all over the US are
welcome to apply as long as they are willing and able to travel to the
respective locations for trials and the actual pageant. If you can come
from Texas and compete in California or New York, even better. Bring
your community with you.
For my generation and the generations
before me, there were very few visible or popular Asian American role
models. Asian American girls, like all other women of color were always
forced to put their beauty in context. The producers of All American
Girl told Margaret that she was "too Asian" looking and not relatable
to the American public. Getting canned for not being funny is one
thing, but fired for looking like you do, off a show based on your life?
think it's about time that we had a forum here in America that is not
just confined to individual communities, that is not just contained
within the US, that encourages Asian American girls to embrace their
beauty and gives them the opportunity to reshape the perception of
"beautiful" in America. I think it's about time we had the opportunity
to represent America in this capacity because Asian American women
should be proud and know they are beautiful just because they are.
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