The University of Connecticut Vietnamese Student Association and the Filipino American Student Association (FASA) hosted the first ever Mx. Asia Pageant on Saturday afternoon in the Student Union Theatre.
The pageant showcased seven UConn students, who were judged on their fashionable cultural wear, talent and responses in a question and answer session.
The pageant was devoted to fostering an inclusive environment. Rather than have a Mr. and Ms. Asia pageant, using the term Mx. recognizes that gender isn’t binary. Through this recognition, the pageant also questions if it is really necessary to separate the categories between male and female. All of the contestants went through the same type of competition.
“The criteria we went with most importantly was really the depth of the answers that you gave us across the board and really having you be intentional at every stage of the pageant today,” Oliver Sawi, FASA advisor and event judge said. “It was really important to us that you showed the connection to your culture and understanding every single component.”
Carlo Arellano, a seventh-semester psychology major, was crowned the winner of Mx. Asia. For the talent competition, Arellano performed a spoken word poem that secured him the win.
“Carlo really showed a lot of depth in his understanding of even just cultural wear and in particular your talent showed a lot of vulnerability and strength in your talent and we really appreciate that,” Sawi said.
“Carlo’s performance was really powerful and touched a lot of people’s hearts, I think. He really mirrored what a lot of us are thinking,” Karina Zhao, a fifth-semester accounting major, said.
Emily Touch, a fifth-semester digital media and design major, was the runner-up of the pageant. For her talent, Touch showcased her Kung Fu routine.
The pageant also awarded two superlatives for crowd favorite and best talent based on votes submitted by the audience. Ni Lam, a third-semester computer science major, won crowd favorite and Ed Ho, a fifth-semester graphic design major, won best talent for his breakdancing and whistling performance.
Fifth-semester psychology and communications double major Megan Go enjoyed the traditional fashion portion of the pageant in which the contestants wore and explained their cultural wear.
“I liked seeing the outfits. It’s not something that we see them often on campus,” Go said. “It was nice to showcase the outfits since I believe outfits that are related to your heritage are really important to your heritage since it shows your roots and where you come from.”
Kaitlyn McCarthy, an eleventh-semester pharmacy major, also enjoyed the fashion portion of the pageant.
“I liked seeing the different traditional outfits but also hearing the explanations behind them was my favorite part because they gave nice little descriptions of histories of what goes behind the outfit and their culture,” McCarthy said. “There were some really elaborate details that I didn’t know about and it was really nice to learn about it.”
Zhao said that she felt “empowered” by the talent portion of the pageant.
“A lot of times the people that we see on stage are people that we’re friends with and we see in the Asian American community so it’s really nice and special to see different talents that they might not show on a day to day basis,” Zhao said, “And for some of the acts they really show a lot of vulnerability and strength in what they do and that was really empowering to me.”
The question and answer part of the pageant focused on aspects of the Asian American experience.
When asked what problem he feels are facing the Asian American community, Ho talked about the impact of stereotypes.
“I think Asian Americans are perceived as a whole. We’re usually all looked at sort of the same, like not loud, we don’t speak up or stand up for ourselves or we’re just really smart and we study a lot,” Ho said. “I think that perception gets in the way in professional settings. The people that talk to you always have a different notion in their head of what they expect is coming from you.”
When asked if he felt like the recent election of William Tong as the first Asian American Attorney General in Connecticut was significant, Arellano replied that he not only believed Tong’s success was significant, but that it should be a source of inspiration for the Asian American community.
“I think [Tong’s victory] should inspire us to also believe,” Arellano said. “Believe that we are capable of being heard, we are capable of of making a difference in this world, we are capable of being more than just where we are now, but we can also represent so many of our community members.”
The Mx. Asia Pageant’s emphasis on inclusion and celebrating aspects of Asian-American identities led to a great event that is sure to continue to impress in years to come.
Alexis Taylor is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.