The Vietnamese Student Association (VSA) transformed the Mandela Room into a Saigon Café, a type of Vietnamese coffee shop, Saturday night to host Binghamton University’s first-ever Asian-oriented pageant.
Pink and white balloons lined a makeshift catwalk and strings of white lights brightened the room as 10 talented, attractive BU women representing 10 different Asian countries competed for the title and honor of being “Miss Asia 2012.”
VSA President Roxy Dinh, a junior majoring in marketing, said the organization wanted to hold an event to parallel other cultural pageants on campus.
“I have seen that there’s pageants for the African American community, and there’s Greek God for [the] white community, but there’s never been an Asian American pageant,” Dinh said. “I feel like it’s a really good opportunity for us to showcase Asian countries, culture and unite Asian interest groups on campus and help people learn more about Vietnamese culture.”
Kimberly Pham, event coordinator of VSA, emceed the event along with VSA social chair Mohammed Malik.
“The support from the audience was beyond our expectations,” Pham said.
Roughly 250 formally dressed people packed the Mandela Room before organizers had to start turning away guests due to lack of seating. Guests enjoyed a Vietnamese buffet which included spring rolls with peanut dipping sauce, Banh Mi (Vietnamese sandwiches) and rice with lemongrass chicken.
The pageant began with a video presentation introducing the contestants with their photos. As each photo was displayed, the respective candidate strutted out onto the catwalk.
Contestants participated in three rounds of competition: a modeling portion featuring traditional outfits representing their respective cultures, a talent portion and a question-and-answer session focused on Asian American culture.
Miss Philippines contestant Kristina Madrazo won the pageant, followed by contestants representing Taiwan and India in second and third place. Madrazo won $100 for the Philippine-American League (PAL), a Filipino cultural group.
The announcement of the winner set off an explosion of cheers from the PAL tables in the audience, thrilled that their representative took home the crown.
“PAL is very proud of Kristina running for and winning Miss Asia,” said Karlo Alon, PAL member and a graduate student studying biochemistry. “As a whole, we feel that Kristina’s win will promote not only our organization but ASU [Asian Student Union] as a whole. It’s a win for all Asian Americans on campus.”
Madrazo sang in Tagalog, the official language of the Philippines, and performed a cha-cha for her talent portion.
“This is the only pageant I’ve ever done,” she said. “I have terrible stage fright, and I felt a lot of pressure, because I just wanted to make PAL proud. “
Madrazo said she was glad she represented PAL and her country well.
“It is truly a blessing,” Madrazo said. “It’s the most incredible feeling, I’m just so proud of everything I was able to accomplish with the people I was able to perform with.”
Men-Chen Huang, graduate assistant for the Multicultural Research Center; Darian Lusk, Pipe Dream Release editor; and Daniel Adeyanju, Student Association vice president of Multicultural Affairs, judged the pageant.
As an additional contest for the nominees, the VSA held an online photo competition on the “Miss Asia 2012” Facebook page to see which contestant could garner the most “likes” on her picture. Miss Malaysia candidate Tiffany Lu won the contest with 575 likes, earning a $50 gift certificate to Abercrombie and Fitch.
“I have a lot of family back in Malaysia, so gotta have some pride,” said Lu, a sophomore majoring in integrative neuroscience.
Janine Wong, a graduate student studying accounting, said the contestants presented themselves well.
“I decided to go because of Kristina and to support PAL,” Wong said. “The contestants were very capable and competent.”
Wong said that if the event was held while she was an undergraduate (she graduated in 2012), she would have entered.
“VSA, when I was an undergrad, was underrepresented so I’m glad they hosted this,” Wong said. “It really put their name on the ASU map.”
The total budget for the event came to over $1,600. Much of it was covered by a grant from the Multicultural Resource Center, although the Abercrombie gift card came from VSA funds.
Dinh said the contestants’ passion made the pageant a success.
“The event was really successful,” Dinh said. “All the contestants poured their heart and soul into preparing for their performance.”
Editor’s Note: Darian Lusk had no involvement in the publication of this article.