The third annual “Miss Asia,” hosted by the Vietnamese Student Association, featured student contestants from Baruch College representing their respective Asian countries and competing for the title of Miss Asia 2018 on April 26.
The cultural pageant consisted of three rounds: cultural catwalk, talent portion and evening gown walk to illustrate heritage, culture and beauty.
There were eight contestants this year, and Miss Vietnam, Jessica Tang, took home the crown as Miss Asia 2018. It was the first time Vietnam participated in the pageant.
Along with the title of Miss Asia, there were four other titles to win. Miss South Korea, Mina Kim, won Miss Social Media; Miss Philippines, Danikha Catada, won Miss Fan Favorite; Miss China, Joy Ling, won Miss Congeniality and Catada took home another win for Best Cultural Catwalk.
Tang said she competed to showcase the culture that her grandmother had always taught her to stay connected with and that she dedicated this to her grandmother.
“I am actually really surprised because I didn’t expect this to happen,” Tang said. “Originally I didn’t do this to win, I did it to represent my culture. Miss Asia is not your ordinary beauty pageant; it’s intertwined with cultures as well.”
As the ladies showcased their traditional attire, they also spoke up on multiple issues and why they decided to participate in Miss Asia 2018. For example, Miss Bangladesh, Sadia Huque, spoke about the importance of her language and her hopes to pass it along to future generations.
Kim mentioned how South Korea is a small country, but has a big heart. She, like many of the other contestants, emphasized the importance of unity, family and community as a whole in their respective countries.
Tang shared that respect for elders is important in her culture because it builds a stronger relationship and better communication.
There were outstanding performances for the talent portion. Huque danced to a traditional song and she moved around the stage in flowy traditional attire. Kim danced the night away like a Korean popstar. Catada showcased her journey of finding herself between the two cultures by singing and dancing to the song “How Far I’ll Go” from The Walt Disney Co.’s movie, Moana.
Miss Vizag of India, Dakshatha Daggala brought excitement on stage with her dance moves, which were as strong and vibrant as her traditional red skirt. The audience started to clap and sing along as Miss Hong Kong, Nicole Pung, played the ukulele and sang “Riptide.” Ling not only sang a Chinese song, but also played the piano to “What A Wonderful World,” as she dedicated the song to her grandfather who she mentioned is about to pass away.
Tang’s performance stood out the most because she focused her theme on the Vietnamese national flower and showed how a lotus flower starts from the muddy water and rises up to blossom.
Her performance vividly illustrated Vietnamese culture and the strength the Vietnamese people have after going through the Vietnam War. It was colorful, historic and symbolic.
“The lotus flower represents purity and strength,” Tang said “The lotus flower is the representation of the Vietnamese people.”
During the Q&A for the final four contestants, they spoke on issues such as sexual harassment, Asian representation and Asian-American identity.
Tang said 31 percent of the girls in Vietnam had been sexually harassed when they were going home after school. She raised awareness about sexual harassment in schools and workplaces. Ling stressed the importance of having a voice and how you can express through music what language cannot — as she did with her performance during the talent portion.
Catada said the representation of Asian-Americans is generally underwhelming, and she wanted to address the lack of representation. “We get lost in the conversation,” she said, “to bring us back to the forefront of it, to have the voice again, representation in media, in the political scope, in movies, I think that’s really important.”
President of VSA Blossom Chen said the “Miss Asia” event is significant because it is the closing ceremony for Asian Pacific American Heritage Month and it brought many different cultures together on stage.
“All of our contestants worked tirelessly for this event so they are all winners in my heart. It takes a lot of courage to go up on stage and perform with hundreds of their peers watching them,” Chen said. “Our judges had a difficult time deciding on who Miss Asia would be this year, but in the end, it was decided that Miss Vietnam deserved the title of Miss Asia 2018.”