On Friday, I was honored to be named one of the final two local celebrities in the Wichita version of "Dancing With The Stars." This means that I'll be competing in the Finale on Friday, April 27th, 8 p.m., at Heroes in Old Town.
Before I agreed to compete in Season 7 of this competition, I thought it would be a small commitment of time. Boy, was I wrong! In order to learn a new dance and a new routine in a week, it requires a lot of time, energy, and dedication. I've been working hard and have the swollen feet, scrapes, and bruises to prove it. Thanks to my professional dance teacher, Dan, I've learned how to dance the rumba, hustle, waltz, and cha cha.
One thing I've liked about this competition is that half of the score is given by the judges and the other half by the audience. To me that means that one half is supposed to be objective since the judges are professionals in the dancing industry and the other half is subjective since it's how many people you bring to vote for you. That said, I hope that at the Finale, all my supporters will come out to cheer Dan and me, and vote for us to win the competition. I want to win the $1,000 for Susan G. Komen's "Race for the Cure" to provide 10 free mammograms in Kansas.
So, please come out to cheer and vote for us.
Then, there's another competition that I'd like to share with you all. On April 1st, one of my dreams came true when I won the title of "Miss Kansas United States 2012."
You see, I've always wanted to be a “Miss Kansas.”
From the moment I set foot on America at the ripe age of eight, I wanted to feel accepted by my new community. Growing up in Kansas, at times, has not been the easiest. I remember when I was in elementary school and encountered my first bully. I was at recess when a little boy said, “Chinese, dirty knees. Go back to where you came from.” In middle school, I had another encounter with an ignorant child and was mostly teased for being thin.
Thankfully, my thin frame was appreciated in the world of modeling. During the last months of eighth-grade, I was fortunate enough to be named one of the eight finalists in the ‘Teen Magazine/Maybelline nationwide model search, which gave me the opportunity to have an all-expenses-paid trip to Los Angeles to compete for $5,000 and share the cover of 'Teen Magazine with Ashton Kutcher. Although I did not win, I had a once in a lifetime experience and met one of my good friends, Sabrina, whom I reunited halfway around the world in Hong Kong!
That same year, I raised money going door-to-door to compete in my first pageant in Kansas City. My parents were completely against the idea but they couldn't say no after this 14-year-old raised enough money to pay for the entry fee to compete. I was happy to compete in my first pageant as a junior teen contestant and was named 4th-runner-up in a field of nearly 60 contestants. I vividly remember my wardrobe. For evening gown, while the girls came out in beautiful and expensive ball gowns, I walked out in a red Chinese styled dress from my closet. This was the moment I caught the pageant bug and decided to compete year after year until I could win a title that said “Miss Kansas.” It took three more disappointments in pageants to win my first pageant. Through that process, I gained a sense of self and purpose. I won the title of "Miss Teen Kansas International 2003" and competed in the "Miss Teen International" pageant where I finished in the Top 10. I was so proud to wear the Kansas sash that year and loved championing my platform of embracing cultural diversity.
It would take me three more years until I won the next pageant. The day before my 21st birthday, I was crowned "Miss Ethnic World 2006" by Caressa Cameron, who went on to become "Miss America 2010." It was in this pageant that I felt beautiful and proud of being a woman of color.
In the back of my head, I still wanted to be a “Miss Kansas.” In the past half a century, there has not been a Miss Kansas of Chinese descent, in either televised pageants, Miss America or Miss USA. The need to belong and be accepted was the fuel to my goal of winning a Miss Kansas title.
I competed five times at the Miss Kansas USA pageant. Each time I walked away with disappointment. My proudest moment in that system was my fourth try when I placed as 4th-runner-up. I made the Top 5 that year which meant I had the opportunity to do the on-stage interview section. Unfortunately, I was not the judges favorite contestant, but it made me realize the true nature of a pageant.
You see, pageants are a competition of favorites. There are no technical marks to be earned. There is no score for the person who puts the most number of hours at the gym or for the person with the greatest effort. There is no score for the person who spends the most money or brings the most people. It’s simply the opinion of several people, who happen to be judges that day.
One of my on-stage questions at the "Miss Kansas United States" pageant was about the relevance of pageants. I don’t believe pageants are for everyone but for the few that choose to champion platforms, it is.
I believe pageants are relevant and it’s a choice. The beauty of living in America is the ability to be free and to choose. I choose to be in pageants because I surround myself with women who are goal-oriented, motivated, and healthy. Although not all the competitors are as I described, most choose to compete to gain self awareness.
I'm not the traditional pageant contestant. I'm not the drop dead gorgeous "Miss USA" nor am I the quintessential all-American talented "Miss America." I'm a woman who simply wanted to be a Miss Kansas to show that there is beauty in diversity and to inspire others to persevere and work hard for their dreams.
Nearly ten years after I won a teen title to represent Kansas, I'm finally a “Miss Kansas” United States. I could not have done this without all my friends, “sisters” and “mommas,” long time supporters and sponsors, and my brother, mom, and dad.
I am proud to represent my state of Kansas at the "Miss United States" pageant in Washington, D.C. during the week of the Fourth of July.
You can find more information on my Facebook page by clicking here