Hyphen magazine - Asian American arts, culture, and politics

On Screen & On Scene: The LA Miss Chinatown Fashion Show

Let’s admit it -- we’ve all posed in front of a mirror. Maybe it was to a soundtrack of Right Said Fred’s “Catwalk” or the Eurythmics’ “Sweet Dreams.” Maybe we even waved a hand like a newly-crowned pageant queen. Maybe we do it often…

As six women near the end of their reign for the LA Miss Chinatown court, I wanted to live vicariously through them. Uh, I mean, get schooled on fashion, being that this group of vivacious and engaging go-getters is organizing the annual 2011 Miss LA Chinatown Fashion Show, Jan 8, 2011, in Universal City.

The Miss LA Chinatown Pageant, organized by the Chinese Chamber of Commerce of Los Angeles, “is a contest to select intelligent individuals from the greater Los Angeles area as Chinatown's ambassadors to serve and represent the Chinese community.”

The Miss LA Chinatown Fashion Show brings awareness to community issues and organizations in addition to featuring its court and contestants. This year the show spotlights literacy organization Reading to Kids.                    

When I asked who the fashion plate was, no one named herself -- displaying true pageant humility. The consensus named Chantel Kristy Lee and Dow-Ning Kuo, neither of whom, suprisingly, is in the fashion industry. Both ladies, along with their fellow Miss LA Chinatown court members, were gracious enough to talk with me about Asian American style, the pageant experience and life post-crown.

What do you think will be the trend for 2011?

Dow-Ning Kuo, degree in Biomedical Engineering, Second Princess and Miss Photogenic: Eco-Friendly clothing! I just heard of a swimwear line that is made from recycled plastics, amazing right?

And when you’re at home, what do you wear, minus the sash and crown?

Jani Wang, actress and Miss LA Chinatown: A warm pair of pajamas.
Janice Jann, actress, First Princess, and assistant editor at Audrey Magazine: Definitely stuff that's comfy like loose cardigans.
Chantel Kristy Lee: Comfort is a main priority.

You've traveled extensively fulfilling your duties. What stood out?

CKL: What made them so enjoyable was the fact that we as a court became so close.
Carrie Gan, community organizer, teacher, and Director of Programs for CAUSE: Our trip to China!
JW: Climbing the Great Wall, meals with dignitaries, TV interviews, learning Kung Fu at a Shaolin temple. Yes, we've been training to become our own bodyguards. 
CG: And eating delicious food from the homeland!

What about that food -- was it difficult to keep your figure with all the food at these events?

CKL: Very difficult!
Nebula Gu, Third Princess, actress and singer: Extremely hard! However, I'm such a foodie-I could not resist. For that, I am thankful for exercise and metabolism.
JJ: It's especially hard because Jani and Nebula eat so much and still manage to stay stick-thin. Not fair!
CG: I made a bet with the ladies that within 1 year I would gain 10 pounds. I think I might win.
JW: I have never been offered so much good Chinese food in my life. Not going to lie, there were definitely points in the year where my Qi Pao felt tighter than usual.
DK: Wearing Qi Paos at the events really helped. Because they are so tight and restrictive to begin with, there was really no room for any growth...

So when your clothes do fit, who are your favorite designers?

Janice: I really love Jason Wu's stuff. So classy and elegant and girly!
DD and NG: Sue Wong. Huge fan!
JW: Wong Fu, Jelly Pop Shoes, Mae Ho, CC Couture, Sue Wong -- It's just a coincidence that they all happen to be in our fashion show…

Do you think API designers get support from the community and what can we do to foster more support?

JW: I think the biggest obstacle is promoting them into the mainstream media. The best way to get support though, would be collaboration with more mainstream channels, so that their talents can reach a larger population.
JJ: I think our community as a whole needs to show more support for all the artists out there, whether they be designers or singers, dancers, or actors. Nebula actually was the one that said something that was very wise-when one of us makes it, all of us move forward as a community.

What's in the future for you?

JW: I'm hoping to become more involved in the entertainment industry to promote Asian Americans in media -- I've been acting for about a year now and would love to continue to pursue that passion.
JJ: This year has been a great practice for me as I continue to break into the entertainment industry with my acting, modeling, and writing.
NG: I'm looking forward to focusing on my career as an actress and host.
CG: Work -- I'm currently working with David Arquette and Jeff Beacher at their new Beacher's Madhouse theater show at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel.
DK: As of now I am working in Research and Development at a company that builds prosthetic heart valves. I hope to continue working in this field because I really enjoy being a part of something that changes lives every day.


For the fashion show, which outfit makes you say, "I look good"?

DK: We will only be wearing two Sue Wong dresses, an evening gown and a shorter cocktail dress. Of the two I would say the shorter one is more my style. I love it!
NG: This short turquoise, beautifully beaded Sue Wong dress.
JW: Sue Wong's style is sure to bring out your classy, chic, and elegant side.
JJ: CC Couture's coats definitely has a lot of sass to them.
CG: All of them -- I loved that we found all these great API designers who are so good at what they do!

LA Miss Chinatown fashion show Jan 8, 2011, 11:30-3 pm; Universal City Hilton at 555 Universal Hollywood Drive, Universal City, CA 91608 http://mlacfashionshow2011.eventbrite.com

About The Author

Ken Choy

Ken Choy is a community organizer and filmmaker, and producer of Breaking the Bow. He is gay, green, and gluten free.

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