I watched Miss America as a child. I was 8, maybe 9. I remember Miss Hawaii won Miss Congeniality, but I forget who took the crown. What I remember even more clearly was the lone Asian contestant vying for the national title. She seemed a little softer than the other contestants, a little less sexily taut, and I was torn between rooting for her based on our ethnic similarities or emotionally selling out to support the blondes who I wish I could be.
Now I’m 20. I got into Harvard with my well-roundedness – when I used to report on admissions for the The Harvard Crimson, Dean of Admissions Bill Fitzsimmons looked up my file and told me offhand, “Yep, you were one of the all-arounders.” I tried to do everything. I did some human rights stuff, I edited the school newspaper, I freelanced for a local paper, and dutifully attended karate twice a week.
But deep down, really, I always wondered what it would be like to be both beautiful and stupid; to do nothing but focus on your appearance rather than brains. I thought it’d be kind of glorious, an easy existence, even with evidence to the contrary. Now, I wonder more about how my ethnic background, which doesn’t reach too much farther than skin tone and bone structure, will affect my career aspirations. Will anyone – and by anyone, I mean the bulk of Caucasian America – be able to relate to me?
This is all a long way of saying that part of the reason why I find entering Miss New York USA (part of Donald Trump’s Miss USA circuit, not the Miss America pageant) an interesting experience is because it is truly something that the 8 year old in me finds thrilling, a little subversive, obviously ludicrous. I was inspired to apply since 2009’s title holder is Tracey Chang, who was also born in China, although she left at a much later age than I did. And while part of me is entering just “for the experience” – which is the only reason to do anything – part of me also wonders if I would be qualified to represent this country, or some part of this country.
Iknow that while I could drum up a convincing-sounding argument in my favor, that plenty of people would disagree. This may be a country of immigrants, but some immigrants seem more American than others.
Part of why I’m entering is superficial: it’s to get in shape and have an excuse to take care of myself. I’m drinking my 8 glasses of water a day, cutting out coffee, and trying to get as much sleep and exercise as I can fit in. My skin looks much better, my head feels clearer, and though I still have a few pounds to shed, it seems being healthy is a worthwhile endeavor, all the better if there’s a goal in mind. It’s tough, though. Loving food is not necessarily bad for staying in shape – there are many ways to love food – but moderation is tough!
On Thanksgiving weekend, I’ll be competing and living out the third reason why I’m doing this – as an undercover mission. What’s the beauty pageant world like? What are the girls like? How many surgical enhancements might I spot? Will this ruin my self-esteem? Will I be able to glide in 4.5 inch gold stilettoes? How much tape will I need to adhere my bikini to my body? Will I feel totally ridiculous?
What doesn’t kill me, I hope, will just make me stronger. And more sparkly.
Hopefully, you’ll be interested in reading about my quest to have really big hair along with finding the perfect fried oyster.