Culture reigns at Miss Asia USA

first_img Karina Garine, 20, is representing Lebanon. Her friend Nanor Kaoulakian is representing Syria. “I’ve never done anything like this, but I wanted to represent my country to show people there are nice girls from there, and to let them learn about my culture,” Garine, a Northridge resident, said. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience.” Kaoulakian, 23, said that in addition to representing countries often not seen in the media, the pageant allows participants to learn about each other. “I’m happy because I’ve learned a lot,” the Pasadena resident said. “It’s amazing. I’ve met people from a lot of places and they are so nice.” Glendale resident Marina Hovhannisyan, 18, is representing Armenia. She said she hopes her participation will encourage others to gain confidence in themselves. “I would suggest to everyone to not look at themselves like they are not good enough,” she said. “Whether they win or not, from the inside you will change because of this experience.” Some, such as Daisi Pollard, are experienced in the beauty-pageant circuit. Pollard, a Sherman Oaks resident who has won various contests, is representing her mother’s country of Yemen. Her father is from Jamaica. “It’s very rare that you would see someone like me,” the Sherman Oaks resident said. “I think people are definitely going to see a lot of diversity among the girls.” Vilegas, who bought the rights to the pageant three years ago, said her goal is to one day have the 58 countries of Asia represented. She also said she runs a rigorous training program. In the next few weeks leading up to the pageant, the women will take lessons in everything from public speaking to mannerisms at a formal dinner party. In addition to scholarship money, the winner will be crowned Ambassador of Culture and Goodwill. “I put a lot of emphasis on the training of the girls,” Vilegas said. “I feel like a mother to 30 girls, but they will be walking testimonials that this training is good for them.” Susan Abram, (818) 713-3664 [email protected] 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORE‘Mame,’ ‘Hello, Dolly!’ composer Jerry Herman dies at 88 Organizers said 80 percent of the contestants this year come from California, proof, they say, that the state boasts one of the most diverse populations in the world. Others come from Canada. The pageant will be held April 29, once again inside Glendale’s Alex Theatre and will be taped for rebroadcast by Charter Communications, one of two dozen sponsors. Some of the participants said this will be their first pageant. Many hope learning to walk, speak and pose for cameras will lead to modeling careers. But most agree that while being chosen queen would be ideal, the real prize is in the experience itself. This weekend, the women took part in a fashion show, highlighting the traditional dresses from the countries they represent. It was the first time many had met each other. “The fact that it was a cultural pageant, I really liked that,” said 19-year-old Natasha Amir of North Hollywood. The Pierce College student said her father is from Israel, but the chance to represent her mother’s birthplace appealed to her. “I get to represent Palestine, which hasn’t been represented in a long time,” Amir said. “I wanted to represent my country because of everything that’s going on, because of all the negativity that’s been heard. A lot of these countries represented are Islamic countries, and they are looked down upon because people don’t think women there have freedom.” GLENDALE – Exquisite young women with cultural ties to a continent that stretches from Turkey to Papau New Guinea will cast a spotlight on some of the world’s most mysterious lands next month as they compete for the Miss Asia USA title. Women representing almost 30 of the 58 countries that make up the Asian continent will don traditional garments from their ancestral homelands as they compete for the queen’s throne in a beauty pageant that also rewards poise and public-speaking skills. “This is the first time we’ve had women from some of the Middle Eastern countries,” said Virgilia Vilegas, chairwoman and producer of the pageant, which was first held 18 years ago. “Many people do not know that the Middle East is part of the Asian continent. (Their participation) says even though we may be different in politics or religion, we can all agree on beauty.” last_img read more