By Sophia Hsu
After a two week goodwill tour in China, intense months of training and choreography, and a day of solid rehearsals, the time came to crown the next Miss NY Chinese. I arrived at the Mohegan Sun with my photographer for the evening, Amit Chaffee, by car, but there is certainly a multitude of ways to get to the massive gaming complex. If you are just in the mood for a quick, last minute weekend getaway, the Mohegan Sun offers everything you need onsite and is just a short bus ride away from Flushing. Having never been to Mohegan Sun, I had no idea what to expect. I had read my colleagues article about her stay there and done research online, but none of my research really did the place justice.
On our journey to the ballroom, we passed store after store of designer labels, restaurants opened by famous chefs, and miles of gambling – a perfectly indulgent place for a luxurious event. As my photographer and I enter the ballroom, the seats are empty, and the stage is dim. We arrive an hour and a half early. The contestants were busy with last minute changes, hair, makeup, and a little practicing of the choreography backstage. Photographers and videographers were making final tests and adjustments at their posts. People were slowly trickling into the foyer in front of the ballroom entrance. Program booklets are piled high at the registration desk, and ticketholders are eagerly awaiting the doors to open.
Checking in with some of the friends I had made while on the China tour, I turn around for just a second. When I turn back around to see the house, the seats are filled. There is a huge turnout for the event! As far as the eye could see, the seats are filled with bright faces and well-dressed audience members. VIPs are seated in the front rows to the right and left of the catwalk with champagne flutes filled.
Arlene Liang and Wilbur Pan are our hosts for the evening… speaking Mandarin, Cantonese, and English. The opening number is a choreographed dance with all fourteen of the finalists. By the middle of the program, only five remain, and by the end, there are only three, with only one to be crowned 2011 Miss NY Chinese. The pageant followed the basic format of all pageants with choreographed dances, an evening gown competition, a question and answer session, an evening gown competition, a swimsuit competition, and of course, the talent portion of the event.
The five finalists compete in the talent portion. Yao Yi opens with belly dancing, a talent she picked up having lived in the Middle East for over a decade. Fanny Liu dazzles the audience with a bit of flamenco. Jasmine Hayter, having studied dance since the she was tiny, stirred the emotions of the crowd with her Latin-inspired interpretive dance dedicated to her father. In a Lady Gaga-inspired bright gold multi-length dress, Melody Wu expressed herself through her rendition of “Born This Way”. Danni Wang closed out the talent competition by first misleading the audience in a pair of nerd-chic, black-rimmed glasses and a black trench coat, which eventually revealed a tight, red-fringed outfit for an alluring chair dance.
Several awards are presented by the prior year’s winners. Jike “Keke” Sun is 2011’s Miss Congeniality with an adorable smile and a caring, gracious attitude. Angela Gao wins 2011’s Miss Photogenic title because she can certainly make any camera her friend. Best evening gown goes to Jasmine Hayter in a form-fitting, floor length, flared white gown with silver accents. 2011’s fitness award goes to Melody Wu.
Congratulations to this year’s winner of the Miss NY Chinese Beauty Pageant! Second runner up – Melody Wu First runner up – Danni Wang 2011 Miss NY Chinese – Jasmine Hayter!
The finalists, organizers, and stylists, all pile into the one restaurant that is still open. We order food and beverages and start unwinding from all of the excitement. Many of the contestants are exhausted and can barely hold their chopsticks while others are wired and can’t even begin thinking about sleep. I get a few moments to chat with Jasmine and her mother who flew in from Atlanta to support her daughter. When I asked what it felt like to win, she noted that the reality of it all still hadn’t sunk in yet. Details still need to be worked out for the Miss Chinese International pageant in Hong Kong, and all of the obligations and responsibilities of being Miss NY Chinese must be talked over, but for now, Jasmine is just enjoying her accomplishment and the fact that her mother was able to be there for her.
Keep an eye on Jasmine as she makes her way to the Miss Chinese International competition held in Hong Kong.