By Nina Huang
Northwest Asian Weekly
Sparkles and smiles gleamed at the Greater Seattle Chinese Chamber of Commerce 52nd Anniversary of the Scholarship for Women pageant. The event was held this past Saturday, July 11, at the Meydenbauer Center in Bellevue.
For the past several months, the nine contestants have worked hard to train for the big night.
The scholarship program poses a bright future for the young ladies and teaches them to become young women who positively represent their cultures in the community.
Millie Su, co-chair of the program, said she believed that the contestants “come in as girls but will leave this evening as young ladies to take on the community at large and internationally.”Contestants were judged based on five categories: Chinese-style evening gown/personality, talent and showmanship, form and fitness, Western-style evening gown, and poise and speech.
An individual interview is also conducted with the panel of judges.
The judges included award-winning fashion designer Luly Yang, director of Oly’s Dance Studio, Olga Foraponova, director/writer/producer Stephen Kline, founder of the American Asian Performing Arts Theatre and Hengda Dance Academy Li Hengda, and former Miss Seafair Susan Ishimitsu.
Chinese heritage played a big role in the pageant. In their opening introductions, while beautifully donning long sparkly baby blue gowns, the ladies briefly thanked their friends and family for supporting them in the pageant. Most of them presented their Chinese language skills by greeting the audience in either Mandarin or Cantonese.
Mei-Ling Schulz, who is biracial, briefly spoke in Spanish.
Carmen Yu started the talent portion with her melodic piano piece which drew the audience’s attention from the very first note.
However, dancing seemed to be the self-expression of choice for most of the ladies’ performances. The one that stood out the most was Schulz’s Michael Jackson tribute performance, which eventually earned her the Miss Talent crown.
During the first half of her two-minute routine, Schulz performed a skit that involved her making a phone call to God asking to speak with Jackson to let him know that she missed him and that her dance was dedicated to him.
Another unique performance was Lori Yeh’s hula dance to Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey’s song, “When You Believe.” Yeh brought her own passion and flavor to the dance while dressed head to toe in traditional hula attire. She also ended up winning the Miss Congeniality title voted by her fellow contestants.
The second runner-up contestant, Lee Li Chong, revealed her personality to the crowd with her flamenco dancing. She described it as “strong on the outside and soft on the inside.”
Lianna Louie and the first runner-up contestant, Lele Tian, introduced the audience to their cultural side by performing traditional Xinjiang and Yunan dances, respectively.
The contestants spent every Sunday over the past couple of months practicing for the competition, which included three different songs all choreographed by Velia Lockett, a Seattle-based choreographer.
“We all worked hard together and helped each other to improve. We all grew together to be stronger and even more confident, and I’m proud of every single person involved,” Cynthia Vuong said of her peers.
All the work paid off because the contestants looked flawless, and their walks were poised and elegant despite wearing long gowns and high heels.
One of the more creative parts of the show was during the question and answer phase where contestants randomly picked a question and had to answer it within a short period of time. This also gave the contestants a chance to showcase the evening gowns that they selected to wear for the night.
When asked what invention she would create, Ming Huang responded by saying that she would invent long-range sunglasses with peripheral vision. Cherry Liu would create a local chapter of Amnesty International if she were to start a nonprofit organization.
Perhaps the most thoughtful and appropriate response was given by Tian. When asked what year has influenced society the most, Tian replied with 690 of the Tang Dynasty when Empress Wu Zetian became the first female emperor in China.
At the end of the evening, it was Vuong, a student at the University of Washington, who won the $5,000 scholarship award and the opportunity to represent the Chinese Americans as an ambassador.
Before the show ended, the Chamber’s president, Lawrence Pang, encouraged the audience to “send your girls next year” to the competition so that they could experience the unique opportunity.
Despite being lost in the beginning, Vuong said that she and the others were able to “learn the ways of the pageant together and finish just as friends regardless of what each of us would end up with.” ♦
To read Publisher Ng’s thoughts on this night, visit www.nwasianweekly.com/wp/category/opinion/publishers_blog.
Nina Huang can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.