crowd of around 300 people burst out cheering as the Miss Chinese Chicago 2019 pageant court was announced on the night of August 31 at Block 37 in downtown Chicago. Pageant director Victoria M. Ng gave each of the ten contestants a big hug before going backstage to help pack up gowns and clear away dressing tables, chairs, and mirrors.
Ng started the Miss Chinese Chicago pageant in 2018 with the mission of fostering the next generation of Asian American women leaders. Born 1992 in a Chinese immigrant family in Chicago, she was extremely shy growing up. In middle school, she’d find a corner and eat by herself during lunchtime. When Ng saw pageant contestants onstage for the first time at the age of 17, she made up her mind to one day become brave and confident enough to present herself in front of people.
From 2011 to 2017, she competed in eight pageants, from local to global, winning several awards and titles, among them second runner-up in Chicago’s Miss Friendship Ambassador Pageant 2015 and the title crown in the Miss Chicago Chinatown Pageant 2016.
“Pageantry forces you to get out of your comfort zone to speak on behalf of a mission or yourself in front of a crowd. If it wasn’t for me participating in pageants, I would not have the confidence to start my business [Victoria M. Ng Productions] right now,” Ng says.
Last year, after retiring from competition, she started the Miss Chinese Chicago Pageant, which focuses on community impact and Chinese heritage. “An Asian American female leader is confident, eloquent, empathetic, compassionate, kind, hardworking, and she has learned from our Asian American history,” Ng says.
This year, with the help of the queen and the first princess from last year’s pageant, Ng provided every contestant with a one-on-one session where they worked not only on walking in heels but on various aspects of self-presentation. “Through [Miss Chinese Chicago], I gained the confidence to share my story with everyone. I hope that it can inspire others to do the same,” said Em He, one of the entrants.
The contestants also took part in various community events, such as the Chinatown Summer Fair, where they gave speeches either on the event stage or on camera for social media.
Pamela Yuan, Miss Chinese Chicago 2019 Queen, says, “The training, fund-raising events, and activities from this pageant have helped me grow as a better leader. It gave me the experience and the platform to work with other ambitious women.” Yuan says she too has been able to apply what she learned from the pageant to both her daily life and her career. “I learned to believe in myself, my work ethic, and my leadership abilities. In the day-to-day bustle, I remind myself that I can stay calm and handle the issue at hand.”
The contestants’ community “platforms,” or missions they plan to undertake should they win, focus on Chinese heritage, which have included projects like spreading access to Eastern medicine to all communities and promoting Chinese cultural awareness among the younger generations.