Pageant Podcast

Last night, we recorded a podcast on pageants with Michelle Vlach-Ing, co-founder of Miss Asian Oregon, and Christina Fa, activist from California. Download it here, or hear it below:

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

It is 22.8 mB, 49:55 long.  I was able to do a direct transfer to mp3 from GarageBand, so this time I won the battle of Mac Powerbook vs. Byron.  The pageant is just two days away, and we wanted to get this up fast, so I didn’t get a chance to edit much.  It’s almost raw footage.  As always, thanks to Instant Conference for use of their recording platform.

I’ll let the podcast speak for itself, but I do have a few comments (as usual!):

1. I’m obviously biased, and so we didn’t get an unbiased moderator.  (I tried to be unbiased, but…well, you’ll hear it.)  Plus, we planned this whole thing only a few days ago.  Thanks to Christina for dealing with our quick production, biased moderator, and amateur setup!

2. In the course of the podcast, Christina mentioned that it was unclear whether Frank Chin supported our pageant.  It occurred to me afterwards that she wasn’t copied on all of the correspondence, and after going back and reading his e-mails, he was even more pro-pageant than I originally remembered.  It was Frank’s idea to create two events on two different days, so with Frank Chin’s permission, here is an excerpt from that e-mail:

Please don’t mount opposing beauty pageants. Combine the pageant and  Curtis’s film casting a critical Chinese-American eye on the American concept of feminine beauty.

A series 9th century opera beauties painted on the insides of glass to make their skin glow with the light of life. Posters of similar beautiful women posing with soap, or a pack of cigarettes, or a cigarette show there were talented and beautifulwomen in China aware of their  short time with beauty just like women here.

This the first ChineseAmerican Beauty Pageant in Oregon.  You know there were others before 2009. Irene Tsu was declared Miss Chinatown USA of 1960(?) The 60’s of Nancy Kwan, Nobu McCarthy, and Jerry Lewis in GASHA BOY,  Miyoshi Umecki the SAYONARA girl with Marlon BrandoFrance Nuyen in SOUTH PACIFIC, Lisa Lu with James Stewart in THE MOUNTAIN ROAD

The use of beauty is an animal thing.  The last lines of the BALLAD OF MULAN:  Two rabbits hop side by side/Who can tell who the he and who the she?”The move against a natural, and instinctive behavior is  a religious question.  There is nothing immoral about a beauty pageant.  Oregon knows that their beauty driving the butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker to go beyond licking the chops is beauty beyond the law.

Please! It’s in nobody’s interest to shut down the pageant.

3. The point that I wanted to make (and I think I did say it somewhat) is that we’re not all the same.  Some people like to be visible; some don’t.  It goes back to that whole geeks/jocks dichotomy that we discussed before.  People take on different roles in society, and this pageant just happens to focus on intelligent women who have presentation skills.  It doesn’t imply that women without presentation skills are less important or intelligent; it just happens to focus on those who have it.

I for one could never do politics.  I’m not jockish enough, and my own presentation skills are so-so.  But does that mean that jockish politicians are bad?  If politicians speak while writers write, does that mean that politicians are somehow superficial or lacking or inferior?  Essay writing contests, spelling bees, music competitions are great, and they help create a platform for people who write essays, know how to spell, or know how to make music.  This is a competition for young women who know how to speak, walk, create a presence, and stand behind issues that they feel strongly about, skills that are necessary in virtually any career that requires visibility.

Anyway, enjoy the podcast, and as usual, sound off like a WOWO below.

10 thoughts on “Pageant Podcast

  1. The Download Here leads to a 404 error.

    If the Academy Award Pageant had a prize for lousy audio, you’d be in the running. There was nasty distortion and Fa’s voice seemed undermixed.

    The presentation was pretty even-handed considering the MAO owners had a 2-1 edge. I guess it would have been more fun with an actual catfight, but both sides found much commonality in their support and encouragement of women.

    I don’t think MAO is evil or has bad intentions, but the pro arguments still fall short of overcoming the historical baggage of sexism, exploitation, and celebration of surface appearance. If you really mean to promote and nurture women, call it something else. Don’t say “beauty”. Don’t say “pageant”. Don’t say “Miss”. Our peeps deserve better. —C

  2. Sorry about that…it’s fixed and downloadable.

    I’ve held the title for lousiest audio for well over a year now, and there is no way I’m ever relinquishing it.

  3. Wow.

    This is a great podcast.

    The whole podcast provides valuable insight into both sides of the debate regarding the value of pageants. Both participants present extremely valid, heart warming reasons supporting their positions, and speak with honest voices, its clear from the way they both speak that they both have the AA community in their hearts, but they just differ in their ideas about how to address some issues facing the AA community.

    After listening to this podcast, I don’t even know what to think….originally I was more against the concept of pageants, but now I’m not so sure. People are just people, trying to do what they think is best for their communities, just trying to make a better situation for their communities in the main way they know how….

    Great podcast, very inspiring narratives, excellent work Jaehwan. Good luck and hope the pageant is successful and achieves the platform you are aspiring for.

  4. Competitions are for validation. We compete to validate something we believe to be true about ourselves. The fact is no woman is entering Miss Asian Oregon or any other beauty pageant to validate her intelligence or activist spirit or even her “poise and presentation.” A woman enters a competition like this one to validate that she is pretty in pink.

    I do not protest beauty pageants, but I protest the idea that a woman has to be beautiful to be validated, notwithstanding her intelligence. That’s what you’re saying, after all, that it isn’t enough for a woman to be intelligent, but she must also be beautiful. “Poised and presentable” is what the podcast participants keep calling it, but let’s all be real here. We’re talking about beauty, looks.

    The attempt to focus on both beauty and brains makes the competition worse, not better.

    No doubt it’s hard to be beautiful, and there is a niche of people out there who want to spend their lifetimes pursuing beauty. That’s their prerogative and if they want a competition to validate their pursuit of beauty, that’s their cup of tea, not mine.

    I would be more okay with Miss Asian Oregon if it was complete frou frou. Just a glittery smoke and mirrors show all in kitschy superficial shallow fun. But the problem here is it’s trying to be serious, and activist, and isn’t that the same as the PUAs alleging to be serious, and activist? In fact, Miss Asian Oregon carries a striking resemblance to the theories behind PUA.

    Moreover, you are conveying the message to young women that it’s not enough to focus on skills, knowledge, and ability, and let looks and appearances be incidental; you’re telling them they’ve got to have it all, and based on a recent op-ed article in the Times by Maureen Dowd, among other recent publications or broadcasts (see NPR), women are less happy today than ever, because they are pressured to be superwomen, to be successful career women, loving wives, good mothers, corporate and domestic, AND be drop dead gorgeous while doing it all. When they fall short of that mark, they feel inadequate. And Miss Asian Oregon feeds into that idea of superwomanhood and inadequacy.

    Oh, and don’t even get me started about the racial segregation aspect of this pageant. Face it. Most of the women entering a Miss Asian American beauty pageant is entering that pageant instead of a mainstream one because they wouldn’t have a prayer of a chance in the mainstream one. So how is that overcoming stereotypes and defying mainstream conceptions of beauty, hm?

  5. Anna123: Wow! Thanks for your honesty and thanks for keeping an open mind. It is hard to tell what MAO will become. Only time will tell and I hope MAO achieves its goals.


    You said:

    “Competitions are for validation.” Your logic is off. Are you saying if someone doesn’t win it means they’re not beautiful? If I don’t win a spelling be does that mean I can’t spell? Competitions are competitions. Life is a competition. Not everyone grows up to be an astronaut, the President of the United States, the CEO of a large corporation or land a coveted position as a professor of Asian American Studies.

    “I protest the idea that a woman has to be beautiful to be validated, notwithstanding her intelligence.” I agree. I think everyone in MAO agrees.

    “That’s what you’re saying, after all, that it isn’t enough for a woman to be intelligent, but she must also be beautiful.” That is not what MAO is saying. It’s about putting forth your best and changing the image of Asian Americans in our community. What is wrong with rewarding women for put forth her best effort? One of the things MAO is saying is we are not going to look like Tia Tequila, we look like ourselves.

    “‘Poised and presentable’ is what the podcast participants keep calling it, but let’s all be real here. We’re talking about beauty, looks.” You are flat out wrong. There are many types of beauty.

    I ask you this, what corporation sends out someone who does not present well to represent its company? Why do they send out the clean cut CEO or BOD to deliver the annual report? They are not going to put out someone who does not know what they are talking about and at the same time, they are not going to put out a “troll.” People who are successful is business do not need to look like a runway model. They need to look appropriate and presentable. They need to be articulate and persuasive. If not, why bother with a hair cut or wearing a suit? CEO’s may as well wear their jammies to the shareholder meeting. Looks aren’t everything, but they matter.

    You can be the smartest person, with the best idea in the world, but if you show fear in front of an audience, stutter, cannot put your thoughts into a cohesive dialog, ramble, slouch, don inappropriate clothing and talk above everyone’s head, people will dismiss you. Maybe that is bad on the part of the listener, but what of the responsibilities of the deliverer?

    Business people practice these skills all the time. There are organizations such as Toastmasters to help people hone in these skills. MAO is simply another vehicle.

    Tia Tequila will probably never be the face of a major corporation and Janet Lee can kick my ass at pool. They are what the mainstream wants to buy into. I am almost certain whoever is the first Miss Asian Oregon will look and act professional. I think the contestants of Miss Asian Oregon have many wonderful opportunities ahead of them and am willing to be bet they just might have a slight advantage in a job interview, or meet someone they might not otherwise meet, or simply just made an impression they would not have otherwise made simply for having taken part in the event.

    It also seems you miss the point that what Miss Asian Oregon is trying to do, which is take control on one section of who can be deemed “beautiful” and own it. You seem lost in your own prejudice to listen to or accept what MAO is about. One day, someone who may happen to be 5’4″, 150lb, or 5’10 with a wide nose and an unnoticeable bust, but is compelling, persuasive and articulate, could make up the image of Asian Women in Oregon. What is wrong with that?

    It is unfortunate that “[You] would be more okay with Miss Asian Oregon if it was complete frou frou. Just a glittery smoke and mirrors show all in kitschy superficial shallow fun.” Really? You are going to compare MAO to PUA’s? Maybe you would be okay with frou frou pageants, but MAO is not and it does not seem to be anyone else would want to buy into that either. If the Wright Brothers and other engineers gave up because the people before them could not make a vehicle that could fly and other people told them they couldn’t do it and made fun of them, would we ever have the airplane? Or would people still be making farcical of “flying machines” in theatre?
    “Most of the women entering a Miss Asian American beauty pageant is (sic) entering that pageant instead of a mainstream one because they wouldn’t have a prayer of a chance in the mainstream one.” Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong. See Brook Antoinette Mahealani Lee, Mai Therese Shanley, Kelley Hu and Angela Perez Baraquio to name a few. You think those women woke up one day and walked into their state pageant and won, then went to Miss America, Miss USA and Miss Universe? It takes a lot of work. Every opportunity you get to do something is an opportunity to advance your skills, even if it is an ethnic beauty pageant.
    “So how is that overcoming stereotypes and defying mainstream conceptions of beauty, hm?”
    To this I say, we’re not going to over come stereotypes in one pageant. We will over come it with a history of influencing. In five to ten years, maybe we will have a panoply of title holders which accurately represent the community. It seems like Miss Asian American Colorado or Miss Chinatown Honolulu might be on the right track. Perhaps we can influence other pageant to change the way they operate their pageant and in 10-20 years, maybe the entire purpose and values of pageantry will be completely revamped. Or we can fight amongst ourselves and not do anything and we are left with the status quo, which is main stream media parading around who it thinks is beautiful Asian women.

  6. AG,

    Yes, competitions are for validation. You didn’t understand what I said. People *enter* competitions seeking validation. Winning gives you the sense of validation, but not winning doesn’t mean you’re not validated.

    What you describe to be the alleged point of MAO goes immediately back to a question constantly raised by others who object the pageant: why call it a beauty pageant then?

    Did it make you feel good to “[sic]” my writing, in spite of the litter of typos your response contained?

    And finally, you lack a sense of humor if you really thought I meant that I preferred MAO to be shallow and superficial.

    You may have worked hard to put on this pageant, but that doesn’t mean you should freak out at all the people whose opinions differ from yours.

  7. PM:

    Not everyone enters a pageant for validation.

    MAO never called itself a beauty pageant.


    Sigh. I wrote a really long rant along the lines of, “how is anyone supposed to take being compared to a PUA as a joke?” But I decided against fuling the flames.

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