Even though CSU alumnus Amanda Igaki is the reigning 2008 Miss Asian America Colorado, don’t dare call her a beauty queen.
The Miss Asian America Colorado event was created this year by Asian Avenue magazine as more than a beauty pageant. The contestants had to possess more than physical attractiveness, they needed to demonstrate intelligence, compassion and the desire to serve.
“The girls and I want people to know this [The Miss Asian American Colorado pageant] is a leadership program and not a beauty pageant,” the 24-year-old Igaki, who was the only CSU alumnus to compete in the pageant, said.
The night of the main event was the culmination of two months of preparation.
The contestants were required to do hands-on work, helping build a Colorado house for Habitat for Humanity and completing a leadership training program, said Annie Guo, director of the Miss Asian America Colorado pageant and an editor at Asian Avenue, a Denver-based publication that focuses on Asian-American issues in Colorado.
Guo created the pageant as a way to connect the Asian-American community of Colorado.
“Young Asian-Americans are often disconnected with their Asian heritage and this was also a way to pull these young folks together to learn from each other,” Guo said.
Many of the women participated in the event because of the leadership and service opportunities the pageant offered, but also to break down social stereotypes that Guo said depict Asian-American women as no more than “exotic creatures inferior to men.”
Igaki participated in the pageant because she wanted to set an example for others.
“For Asian Americans, we don’t have many role models. This pageant would give me a chance to present myself as a role model,” she said.
As winner of the pageant, Igaki is required to complete a service project during her reign.
She has been a hula dancer for 16 years and is the co-founder of the first hula dance center in Boulder. Her passion for the cultural dance led her to try to “unite the Hawaiian community of Colorado,” she said.
For her service project, she is planning a concert to showcase different Polynesian dance groups and will end with a culturally diverse dinner.
“I want to educate people on different cultures and step out of the box,” she said.
As part of her duties, Igaki will represent the Asian-American community by attending cultural festivals, town meetings and diversity fairs, Guo said.
She will also represent Colorado, for the first year ever, in the national Miss Asian America contest in San Francisco Aug. 18.
The 23rd annual contest is dedicated to promoting Asian culture to the Asian-American population.
While she has enjoyed being a part of Miss Asian America, after this year, Igaki will hang up her sash and tiara.
“After the national pageant, I’m done. The stress is too much,” she said.
Staff writer Kelli Pryor can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.