In 1962, Macel Patricia Leilani Wilson from Honolulu, Hawaii was the first Asian American woman to win the title of Miss U.S.A. Wilson was not only the first Asian American, but the first non-Caucasian woman to wear the crown. She would go on to become a finalist in the 1962 Miss Universe competition.
The July 13, 1963 issue of Lodi News-Sentinel, based in California, reports:
Macel Leilani Wilson of Hawaii, daughter of a plumber, won the Miss U.S.A. title Thursday night in a tense climax to the Miss America pageant. Miss Wilson, 19, captured the fancy of the eight judges with her flashing dark brown eyes and a lithe figure that would grace any come-to-Hawaii poster…
Miss Wilson, a receptionist, didn’t list a single previous beauty title on her contest application, measures 35-24-35 and stands at five feet, seven inches….
The deeply tanned Miss Hawaii, who succeeds Sharon Brown of Minden, La., as Miss U.S.A. told pageant officials that her ambition is to “go to college and get married.” She arrived in Miami for the contest wearing a sarong as her native costume, and did a brief hula-hula for photographers.
Eventually, Wilson would get married to a Danish civil engineer and move to Copenhagen, Denmark to study filmmaking. She worked as a film editor for the Danish Broadcasting Corporation from the 1970s to 2000, with a break in the middle where she went to Tunisia to study Fine Arts. She reportedly had some art exhibitions in Denmark displaying her work after leaving the Danish Broadcasting Corporation.
In light of Nina Davuluri becoming the first Indian American to win the Miss America title last night, it’s fascinating to see what a difference of forty years makes. Davuluri, also 5’7″, is 24, has already graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in Brain Behaviour and Cognitive Science, and has plans to become a doctor.