The Daily Campus sat down with this year’s Homecoming King and Queen, Qimei, or “May”, Liu, a junior majoring in women’s gender and sexuality studies and Mahika Jhangiani, a senior majoring in political science to reflect on Homecoming before, during and after the event.
Disclaimer: Responses have been cut down for clarity and length of the story.
Daily Campus: Why did you decide to run?
Qimei Liu: I just really wanted to try it. Homecoming is a big platform. I feel like it is a good opportunity. I wanted to break the traditional gender norms that only men can be the king. It really is a trial, I didn’t know what would happen after that.
Mahika Jhangiani: Through the Asian American Cultural Center (AsACC) we first started a nomination form…I found out what the next steps were to create a speech. I was first kind of taken aback by who would nominate me and why. I thought that it would be such a great opportunity…to give back to AsACC, having been here for four years. I thought it would be a great opportunity to represent AsACC and speak on the Asian American and Pacific Island issues.
QL: I nominated myself. I really wanted to add more voices as an international queer student.
DC: Did your friends and family have any reaction?
MJ: My mom has actually wanted me to do pageants before, so I think she was pretty excited that I was doing it.
QL: Since my family is all in China and they don’t really know about Homecoming, I had to translate the king to Chinese. We don’t have this “king” thing in China. They don’t really understand what it’s about. They just feel happy for me.
DC: What was the royal tea like?
MJ: It was a bit nerve wracking, going in and talking about ourselves. The faculty that were interviewing us made it a really comfortable process.
QL: I do want to recognize help from the previous king and queen (from AsACC). During the whole process, they really gave us valuable suggestions about the royal tea and how to go about the pageant.
DC: Was there any kind of stand-out advice?
MJ: I think the most important thing was being ourselves. I want to say what people want to hear but it was like no, just be yourself. They’ll love you.
DC: Before being on stage, what did you both do individually and as a team to get people to vote for you?
MJ: I personally didn’t want it to be a popularity contest. I think that both May and I care about really important things. May was running on a really important platform. I personally wanted people to know about that, really interacting with people within AsACC. Going to a Pan Asian Council meeting and introducing ourselves to everybody, getting to know people rather than saying, “Hey, vote for us.”
QL: I talked more to international students and got their votes for us. I feel that this group is getting bigger and bigger. They don’t really participate on campus events. This is a good opportunity to promote the event and for [the students] to know [about American life].
DC: What was it like to get international students to care about the event and support your platform?
QL: The night when we gave the speech, the reaction of the audience for my reasons was, “Hey I agree you’re doing a really great job.” However, after that day, when I spoke the same thing to international students in Chinese, they did not understand what I’m saying. Our culture is different. While they are here, if they don’t actively learn about this, they do not really understand what is going on over here. I worked with CSSA (Chinese Students and Scholars Associations), we do a lot of promotion with WeChat. I don’t know if they really understand the meaning behind that (but I want to bring awareness).
DC: Will they ever understand the importance?
QL: They will eventually [many do understand and care]. It’s just a [learning] process.
DC: Can you describe the day of the event itself, especially when you were on stage?
MJ: I was personally really nervous going into it. I think we had one rehearsal the day before to talk through what it’s going to be like. Backstage, all the other candidates were so supportive. It didn’t really feel competitive. In the back, we would all be cheering for the person who was onstage. Once we got onstage, I definitely felt a lot better.
QL: During the process, I got a lot of support from the staff. I wasn’t really that nervous. I wanted to add more voices and opinions. It was many people’s efforts, not only me.
DC: Following Homecoming, where are you at now? Are you still pushing your platform and what have the effects been after Homecoming?
QL: It really gave me confidence and really gave me hope that I may make some changes. If I can stand on that Homecoming stage, then I can stand on a bigger stage. I believe I can do more in the future.
MJ: It gave me more confidence in the sense that there were more people who believed in me enough to make it even that far and we do have a huge community that backs up what we do and what we believe in. The pageant may be over but our responsibilities do not end there.
DC: Do you think the community is represented more after the event?
MJ: I think the easiest thing to do is go back. The cultural centers are kind of isolated and there’s not a lot of interaction between the cultural centers. I think it’s really easy for us to get comfortable and stuck within our own groups. I think one of the most important things I realized is how much easier it is to make that connection than we think. Meeting the other candidates from the fraternities and sororities and even the other cultural centers, it was so easy to bond with them. We have so much more in common than we do different. If we build that bridge, might as well maintain it.
QL: I feel I try to represent international and queer students and try to add more voices. I feel I was always struggling a lot until [winning] this Homecoming King, before that no one really gave [me] feedback. I don’t really know how others outwardly respond to these issues. After this is done, I feel we need to do more. There are actually many more points we can take from daily life (that we can make them) better. For me, I feel more brave and confident to point out things and say can we do things to improve. It may be easier than we [thought] to collaborate with other cultural centers, [but] it’s not that easy. More needs to be done.
MJ: I also think that Homecoming is one of the few platforms where we see so much diversity in one place and at one time. Throughout the year there are so many events. To see diversity in one place run by a student organization versus diversity run by a university-wide event such as Homecoming isn’t all that common, so I think it would be interesting to do more things like that throughout the year. It should be priority to bring us all together.
QL: To improve the diversity and inclusivity is not only the jobs of representatives, it’s really the job of everyone. People, when they are back to normal life, they are back to their own schedule. Everyone should participate. People should be more involved and (we all need) to keep going .
DC: What does AsACC mean to you after Homecoming?
QL: I always use ‘family away from home’ to define it. It is not a slogan. You can really find your family over here.
MJ: It really is a family and a really big community. Even within AsACC, there are so many different cultures. Even within our own cultural center, there seem to be divides. We need to have solidarity within our community and other communities as well. Being in AsACC and now being a senior, I wouldn’t have the confidence in my identity as I do today.
Listen to a recording of our winners answering some of the questions, and stay tuned until the end to find out changes that they believe Homecoming should do for the future.
Kimberly Nguyen is the associate managing editor for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.