This year’s Miss USA Pageant, which will air in May on NBC, is a biggie: it’s the 60th anniversary. And while we find too few Asian faces represented in the national competition, we can usually count on Hawaii to put up an Asian American contestant. Hawaii was the most recent state to join the Miss USA competition (in 1962), and four Miss Hawaii USA winners (including eventual Miss Universe winner Brook Lee) have gone on to win the national title of Miss USA, while Chinese-Filipino-Hawaiian American actress Kelly Hu went on to win the Miss Teen USA competition in 1985.
Here, we talk to two more Asian Americans who will be representing the 50th state in this year’s pageants: Miss Hawaii USA 2011 Angela Byrd (who is of British and Korean descent) and Miss Hawaii Teen USA 2011 Courtney Coleman (who is of Filipino, Chinese and Caucasian descent).
Q: How has this experience been for you so far?
Angela Byrd: I grew up always watching Miss USA along with the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade. When I was a little girl, I would have never expected this opportunity that I have now. It’s been very exciting and it has pushed me to work even harder to represent our state at the Miss USA pageant.
Courtney Coleman: Having the title as Miss Hawaii Teen USA is truly a dream come true. I have grown a lot as a person from the appearances that I have attended as Miss Hawaii Teen USA.
Q: Why did you apply to participate in the pageant?
Angela: When I first moved to Hawaii three years ago, people kept telling me to run for Miss Hawaii and I was never fully aware of the opportunities and blessings it brings to the title holder. When I was approached in July 2010 by a professional acquaintance, I realized that this opportunity is exactly what I need in my life right now. There are different seasons in our lives and it felt like it was time for me to run for Miss Hawaii USA.
Courtney: I have always been interested in Donald Trump’s Miss USA and Miss Universe pageants and I always dreamt of being a beauty pageant winner. Having my dream actually come true is unlike any other feeling.
Q: How do you feel as an Asian American woman in participating in the nationwide pageant this year?
Angela: One of the most beautiful things about our country is that it is a melting pot of different cultures and ethnicities. I believe it’s time and fitting for multi-Asian ethnic women to represent our Asian culture and that of Hawaii at the national competition.
Courtney: Angela will be competing for Miss USA this spring. Being able to watch a pageant this big makes me excited to participate in my national pageant in the summer. The Miss Teen USA pageant will be held in the Bahamas in the month of August, and I can’t wait to compete for the crown and be able to represent Hawaii and its diverse community.
Q: What is the most important lesson you have learned throughout your journey so far?
Angela: The most important lesson that I have learned so far is to always be humble and thankful for the blessings in our lives and to work the hardest you have ever worked for a dream and a goal particularly for yourself as well as for the people you represent.
Courtney: I was raised to be loving, caring, and most of all honest. Throughout my journey I kept those morals besides me in everything that I do. I have learned to do everything through your heart and to give a hundred percent in everything that you do.
Q: What do you hope to accomplish in the future with your title as Miss Hawaii USA/Miss Teen Hawaii USA?
Angela: Being multi-ethnic as well as traveling from being in an army family has showed me that no matter what culture we are from and no matter what country we live in, we have the power to make a change and promote awareness to issues that we hold close to our hearts. I particularly feel the need to help in the medical field with those who struggle in underdeveloped communities which is why I plan to attend physician’s assistant school.
Courtney: I will be graduating high school this year and continuing on with my education at Hawaii Pacific University. I plan on majoring in Biology and continuing on with Medical School to become a Dermatologist. Along the way, I would love to continue pursuing my modeling career to help pay for my education.
The Miss USA pageant (not to be confused with the Miss America pageant) is a beauty pageant organized in 1952 by the Miss Universe Organization. The Miss Universe Organization also operates the Miss Teen USA competition, which was organized in 1983. NBC Universal, Inc. and the Donald J. Trump organization own and operate the Miss Universe Organization. The 2011 Miss USA pageant will be televised live on NBC in May from Las Vegas, and the winner will move on to the 2011 Miss Universe pageant. Check your local listings for show times, and find out more about the organization at www.missuniverse.com.