I’m thrilled to be back at the Miss Universe pageant as a preliminary judge. At last year’s competition in Sao Paulo, Brazil, my favorite part of the judging experience was seeing so many diverse women from countries and racial backgrounds across the globe. For Miss Universe 2012 in Las Vegas, I’m again excited to see the diversity of beauty up close and in action.
Ever since I was a child watching the pageant with my mom, I saw what makes the Miss Universe event special: it showcases women from across the globe. As an immigrant Asian kid growing up in the 1970s and 1980s, I did not see many racial minority people on television – except when Miss Universe was broadcast each year. That diversity left quite the impression on me. (Ok, I admit the sparkly gowns were also fabulous to see.)
Years later, I have become a strong diversity advocate. I believe that seeing strong, successful and diverse role models will help every young girl – no matter what she looks like – believe that she can accomplish anything she dreams. I also believe that ideals of beauty in media (at least in the United States where I live) could be more varied. And that’s where Miss Universe comes into play.
As in 2011, there are 89 contestants vying to become the 2012 titleholder. They come from different nations, emerge from varied life backgrounds, span the spectrum of races, and speak many languages. I recognize that Miss Universe celebrates beauty and is not the United Nations trying to secure world peace. But there is still something inherently powerful about all that diversity on one stage and on television screens.
It’s also quite evident when I interview all 89 contestants as a preliminary judge. That’s quite a number of questions to ask, answers to hear, and new things to learn. Last year, I listened to so many languages, heard about so many different places to grow up, and appreciated so many different cultural stories.
During the swimsuit phase, each woman will display her own signature movement as she struts down the stage. And in the evening gown competition, I am looking forward to again seeing wondrously different visions of personal style and fashion. There was a parade of colors, gown choices, shoes, accessories and hairstyles –opening my eyes to the myriad ways in which beauty can be expressed.
89 contestants. A globe’s worth of different races, nationalities, languages, personal backgrounds, styles, educations, and ambitions. Each one diverse. Each one beautiful. And each young woman on that pageant stage can find her unique way to SHINE, SPEAK & WIN.