Last Saturday, Binghamton University students put on their best suits and dresses to attend Miss Asia 2022: Masquerade Ballroom. A pageant organized by the Vietnamese Student Association (VSA), Miss Asia is an annual event that aims to bring together women of various Asian cultural backgrounds, celebrating and showcasing their traditions and talents.

Apart from their snappy outfits, attendees also brought cardboard cutouts of the contestants, with images ranging from flattering to funny warped memes. The usually blank Mandela Room was transformed, with a catwalk placed in the middle of the room and seats around it. There were also photo booths with VSA-themed backgrounds for pictures. True to the theme, masquerade masks were provided at the door and were a part of a raffle toward the night’s end.

Most attendees flocked to the food line after entering, which included the usual Asian dishes — mapo tofu, white rice, noodles and stir-fried veggies. And thus, with full bellies, the audience was ready to meet the future Miss Asia. The night started with an introduction to the judges and the supporting Asian organizations, both on-campus and from neighboring VSAs.

The five contestants walked out with uproarious applause. The event featured Anita Liu, a senior majoring in English representing Taiwan, Bhea Aglibot, a junior majoring in nursing representing the Philippines, Jessica Hong, a sophomore majoring in political science representing China, Sharanya Nair, a junior majoring in integrative neuroscience representing India and SooBin Ha, a sophomore majoring in biology representing Korea.

Minh Bùi, a sophomore majoring in mechanical engineering and a cultural event coordinator for VSA, discussed the process of picking the final contestants.

“We interviewed the contestants and had them showcase to us their cultural knowledge and talent,” Bùi said. “Then, all E-Board members chose the most suitable candidate among all applicants.”

There were five rounds of performances the contestants competed in. The first round was an introduction, where they were introduced to the audience while walking through the catwalk and down to the audience’s level. Each showed off their personalities with a confident strong walk, adding their own flair. The second round was the cultural garment walk, where they wore the traditional garment of their choice. Miss India and Miss Philippines also performed short dances alongside their walks.

The talent round was probably the most anticipated part of the night, with contestants showcasing the fruits of their hard work. Miss Taiwan’s talent was drawing. She found her model in the crowd of attendees and then showed it to the crowd with an energetic gallop.

Miss India performed a traditional dance with two backup dancers, starting with smooth moves which gradually got more fierce to the energetic beats. Miss Korea performed a K-pop dance to The Boyz and other classic K-pop hits, urging the audience to sing along to the songs.

Miss China performed an energetic dance duo to “Lovesick Girls” by BLACKPINK. And, finally, Miss Philippines graced the audience with her emotional voice, prompting them to wave their lights to the song.

Intersecting with the contestant’s performances were games and a raffle with crowd participation, such as musical chairs, balloon popping and charades. The highlight was a catwalk to find a “Mister Asia,” with a mini waffle maker as the prize. Other prizes included Squishmallows, an air fryer and Starbucks gift cards.

In the fourth round, audiences voted for their favorite costume. The winner was Miss Taiwan, who brought the heat in a Guy Fieri costume with chunky knee-high boots. Miss India dressed up as Jasmine from Aladdin, complete with a man-powered magic carpet. Miss Korea was Little Red Riding Hood, getting chased through her catwalk by a wolf-headed man. Miss China banked on the cuteness factor with a Stitch onesie and pulled out paper hearts from her outfits. Miss Philippines was Tinkerbell bestowing candies to the crowd.

The final walk was where contestants would change into show-stopping gowns. Then, they answered preliminary questions about what they wanted from the competition and their thoughts on how social support can grow on BU’s campus and beyond. This year’s top three, Miss India, Miss Philippines and Miss China were picked after their answers. The final questions for the top three concerned topics of beauty, feminism their plan to continue to represent Miss Asia after the event and their own individuality.

After long deliberation, Miss India — Nair — was crowned Miss Asia 2022.

“It was stressful at first to prepare for this event,” Bùi said. “This year Miss Asia started one month earlier so we had to work on planning logistics and interviews earlier during the summer, and it was also Joseph’s [Trần] and [I’s] first time coordinating this big of an event. However, thanks to the help of our amazing E-Board members and the wonderful contestants, the event went well and smoothly.”