Behind the Tiara
The Path to
Becoming a Beauty Queen
By Sophia Hsu
In that moment when the emcee announced Maggie Zhang as the winner of the 2013 Miss NY Chinese Beauty Pageant, everything went quiet for Maggie. She was in a state of shock and disbelief. Her mind went blank; words completely escaped her. The most she could muster as they were putting the tiara on her head, a sash on her shoulder, the cape around her neck, and a bouquet in her arms, Maggie stood still in the moment, blankly staring at the audience. Some of the photographers and reporters that evening asked her why the runners-up seemed so much more ecstatic than she did when they won. The win was entirely surreal for this leggy, accomplished dancer who is scheduled to return to Vassar in the fall. She never thought she would win . . . at all.
As for her fellow winners, first runner-up Michelle Kaszuba and second runner-up Qian Yang, they beamed on stage as their names were called, gleaming smiles and all. Michelle, a recent Hunter college graduate majoring in psychology and theater, admitted that she was probably grinning from ear to ear that night because as the competition progressed over the last few months, she kept winning titles and superlatives at each stage of the competition, totaling five titles. From the moment she registered for the pageant to the moment she won, her smile got bigger and bigger because each win was for her mother who had always wanted Michelle to compete but passed away in February of 2013 before getting to see her daughter place in this year’s competition. Having always been an athletic tomboy, Michelle didn’t see what her mother had always seen in her, a beautiful woman capable of placing in beauty pageants. Seeing all of the contestants with their mothers moved her to tears, happy tears that these women could accomplish so much and make their mothers so proud.
Qian, a tomboy nurse with an old soul and a penchant for singing, was pleasantly surprised at placing as second runner-up. After seeing an ad in the paper for the competition, she decided to take a chance and challenge herself by competing. Being one of the older contestants this year, she never thought she would place. She was there for the experience, and if her being in the competition led her to a small bit of fame, she would use every ounce of it to help impoverished children. Because of her big heart and protective nature, the other contestants nicknamed “Big Sis”. Qian nearly missed this year’s competition entirely when another major earthquake rocked her hometown of Chengdu. Being a nurse and having the memories of the outpouring of help when the last major earthquake devastated Chengdu when she was a teenager, she was completely distracted from competing. After speaking with family and friends, who advised her to stay and give others who needed to rush back to Chengdu because of ailing family members a chance at catching a flight, she stayed and competed with renewed purpose.
After all of the training that the pageant provided, the women seemed comfortable in front of the camera, matured and poised but comfortable in their own skin. Each pose came naturally as photographer Kai Liu snapped away. Every smile and look had emotion attached. Each of the winners has her own style, but Maggie, Michelle and Qian all touched on the same theme: be comfortable in whatever you wear because it markets your confidence.
When asked what motivated them to compete, each in her own way said that life was too short not to take chances and seize opportunities as they presented themselves. The pageant was always a means to position them to be able to give back to the community. Each spoke with such an unwavering sense of volunteerism and duty. It was so inspirational to hear. Maggie has aspirations to become a bilingual television presenter focusing on cultural programming, spreading Chinese, Australian, and American culture around the globe. Michelle has her sights set on giving back through laughter, acting on television comedies, and maybe one day even writing her own. Qian has already begun to give back as a nurse, preserving old folk songs in a little-spoken Chinese dialect by singing them, and one day, going back to China to help impoverished children.
These strong, educated, and aware women deserve their titles. Here at Asian Fusion we wish them the best of luck in all of their future endeavors, and to Maggie, you are going to wow them in Hong Kong!