February 6, 2007 > A crown with class
A crown with class
Fremont native, Louise Wu proves that winning the crown of Miss Chinatown USA can change your life, but not your soul.
TCV: How did you become interested in competing for the title Miss Chinatown USA?
Wu: I grew up as a tomboy, hanging out with the guys playing baseball. I didn't wear my first nice dress until I was 17. My role model was my older brother. Those who knew me then, were astonished when they found out I had entered a pageant. As I was maturing into a woman and became interested in pageants, I had been dancing for 15 years under the tutelage of Yoko's Dance Studio. Part of my success can be attributed to my dance talent and the training and discipline of Yoko's instruction.
Pageants were of interest because I went to Santa Clara University which is very expensive and scholarship money was attractive. I was trying to figure out how to pay my student loans. About five years ago, I was crowned Miss Teen Chinatown and won a scholarship as well as a grant for Mission San Jose High School. Although there is controversy about pageants and some of those who enter for the wrong reasons, I don't want to be a part of that. Those in charge of the Miss Chinatown USA pageant wanted contestants with personality, intelligence, talent and poise. In order to compete successfully, you need to be a complete person. This was an opportunity for me refine myself as a person; define who I am and what I stand for. I also love to perform as well. The history of Miss Chinatown USA is about having a role model within the Asian community. As a passionate person, I thought that if I won, it would give me a forum to speak with others.
TCV: Who competes for the title Miss Chinatown USA?
Wu: Regional winners from around the country - Seattle, Hawaii, Georgia, New York, New Jersey, Chicago, Texas, etc. - are invited to compete for the title, but for those competing to become Miss San Francisco Chinatown, the regional and national competitions are held simultaneously. All contestants are judged by the same judges, so if you are competing for Miss Chinatown San Francisco and receive the highest overall score, you become Miss Chinatown USA; that is what happened to me in 2006. In that case, the Miss San Francisco Chinatown contestant with the second highest score holds that title.
TCV: Does the Miss Chinatown USA competition include all facets of Chinese culture?
Wu: It is important to know that there are differences within cultures, but as Miss Chinatown USA, I bring unity to the community. Although San Francisco Chinatown is primarily Cantonese, we had contestants from different backgrounds and there was no discrimination. The pageant emphasizes an understanding of your cultural background and what you bring to the American culture. Quality of talent, grace, beauty and poise transcend our differences. The contest uses the English language. There are Chinese judges but also those who are not Chinese. In this way, judging is done from many different perspectives representing different facets of life.
TCV: What are the duties of Miss Chinatown USA?
Wu: It is very similar to other pageant winners. Much depends on your motives. I did not have the need to compete just to feel pretty or win a crown. Given the opportunity, I decided to listen to the voices of the community, serve as a role model and be an advocate for those things that need to change. I have had some amazing opportunities after winning the title to visit with groups and travel. I have been invited to speak to a wide variety of groups. I love kids and teach dance, using that position as a coach who can help kids learn how to handle life. Fortunately, I have had great role models in my life and want to serve in that role as well.
TCV: Have the duties of Miss Chinatown USA been compatible with your personal interests?
Wu: Although my interests include "girly" things such as fashion, shopping and hanging out with friends, I also enjoy some activities that may be more associated with the "tomboy" side of me. I play the drums and when in high school, played for my church worship team. During my college years, transportation around campus was by skateboard. Everyone knew me as the Asian girl on a skateboard. I was an anomaly at that campus. As a role model, I try to present a quality image and use the notoriety of my position in the entertainment industry to promote opportunities for women, Asians and those who have been underrepresented. Although my life has changed, I am still the same person with a passion for helping others to feel free to express themselves and excel in their chosen goals.