I recall being abroad in Thailand and making the decision to be a contestant in the Miss Vietnam of Northern California Intercollegiate Pageant. As I reflect on my experience as a contestant leading up to pageant day and winning Miss Congeniality, the quote that best summarizes my four month experience is, “A comfort zone is a beautiful place, but nothing ever grows there.” While I was studying abroad, I went out of my comfort zone by doing two solo trips to Singapore and Myanmar. I was challenged to be independent in an unfamiliar country. Similarly, my first pageant experience challenged me to not only be independent but also resourceful. There are three things I learned that helped me grow outside of my comfort zone:
- The power of the ask. I’m currently working in sales, and it’s ironic how I still found it challenging to ask my networks to support me on the social campaign or sponsor though ticket sales. The hardest thing I had to overcome was the feeling of being indebted to someone who supported me. However, I learned how to embrace and include my friends from high school, college, and strangers through my journey participating in a pageant rooted in honoring exemplary Vietnamese college students. From this experience, I have expanded and leveraged my networks, which I realized spans from Washington D.C. to Florida, from Thailand to Vietnam.
- Overcoming the fear of public speaking and putting myself out there. I have sat through a number of scholarship and job interviews, facilitated conferences, and emceed events at my alma mater UC Berkeley. Participating in the pageant has challenged me to handle the pressure when the spotlight is literally on me for hours at a time. In the future, I aspire to run for a local public office. This opportunity to be in the pageant has given me a taste of how to properly conduct myself under pressure and attention, as well as how to receive and incorporate constructive feedback.
- Competition and friendship does not have to be exclusive. Although I have not participated in other pageants, I am grateful that my first experience was in MVNCI. I gained great mentors like Jessica and Cindy, but also a new group of friends that I can ask for support and in turn, I can also support them. I recall a specific instance where I struggled with understanding the counts of the dance and all the girls counted through the choreography several times. The contestants are undoubtedly a group of talented and hardworking young ladies, and I am proud of all the work they put in their academic and professional endeavors. In my future endeavors, I know that I will be working with others in a competitive workspace. My pageant experience helped me balance how to compete but also work harmoniously with my peers.
This May, I am excited to be participating in an all expense paid National Leadership Academy in Washington D.C. which targets and trains Asian American and Pacific Islanders who are currently elected officials and aspiring ones. I have no doubt that with my MVNCI experience under my belt, I will be able to leverage my experience of public speaking and putting myself out there to maximize the training opportunity. I figured, if I could walk on stage and perform in front of a hundred people, I can do anything. With that said, during my reign, I will focus my energy on providing mentorship and informal coaching for Bay Area high school or college students with interviewing, public speaking, and professional development. As I received a lot of support from mentors, I will serve as that mentor in my capacity with MVNCI.