Photos courtesy of Moses Sison, Kim Nguyen, Todd Fong Photography, David L. Pham, Vu Cong Hien, and Vinh Tran.
Miss Vietnam of Northern California Intercollegiate 2013 was the very first pageant I ever attended, let alone participate in. On pageant day, the Campbell Heritage theater was abuzz with activity. Stage crew and other performers were scattered in the hallways and at the wings of the stage, dressing rooms had clothes and heels tossed about, helpers assisted with wardrobe changes, and thirteen other beautiful young ladies hurriedly fixed each other’s makeup and hair, ate whenever there was a break, or sat quietly reflecting on possible interview questions. These are the snapshot images from pageant day that I will remember. Moreover, I will not forget the journey of months of practices, the support of my family, friends, and sponsors, the time and commitment from staff, and the friendships created with my pageant sisters.
Surprisingly, on the day of pageant I was most nervous about the traditional dance performance and not the on-stage interview questions. During dance practices, I was confident with my dancing—that was until the contestants were given a larger, and for me a more flimsy, fan to dance with. My first opportunity to dance with the larger fan was the day before pageant; the weekend before I was in Southern California for an unexpected family event. After my return, I felt that my dancing wasn’t quite the same and my fear was that I would drop the fan to the ground. My pageant sisters Giang and Stephenie were so helpful to review the dance movements with me, and another pageant sister, Tien, would act goofy at the wings of the stage to ease my tension. In the end, I was able to complete the dance choreography without dropping the fan and I was secretly ecstatic.
Following the dance performance was the ao dai segment where the contestants showcased their Vietnamese traditional dress. I was amazed by the colors, trains, materials, and embellishments that composed each ao dai. For me, I was very excited for this segment because I was wearing a khan dong headpiece that I designed and embellished myself. I was also wearing the earrings and bracelets that my mom had handmade.
After that was the evening gown segment. I was worried about the loose fitting of my dress; however, this worry was quickly replaced by feeling distress for Hally, who had experienced a dress mishap. In spite of this, Hally remained composed and calm despite the backstage chaos of staff trying to assist her. I admire her for being so strong and showing the audience her poise regardless of what she may have felt inside.
The question I received most often from my family and friends while I was competing was, “Do you think you’ll get to be the Queen?” To be honest, I couldn’t have anticipated it. I felt that I might have a shot at Top 8 based on my hard work, preparedness, and punctuality at practices from December through March, and being overall quite happy with my pre-pageant interview with the judges. However, I was uncertain whether I would be selected for Top 5, and I could only wish to be selected as one of the Top 3. When all the titles were crowned except for Queen, I truthfully did not know who might be called.
Then the words came, “The lucky winner for tonight is Contestant Number… 12!” I was humbled to be selected, a bit teary eyed, and quietly overjoyed. I was given a beautiful bouquet of flowers, a scepter, and a dazzling crown.
Since then, as Queen I have participated in various events and activities with the MVNCI Court. Our adventures so far have included educating the community about human trafficking and Hepatitis B, encouraging participation in sports, showcasing the fashion designs of Asian American designers, celebrating the contributions of Asian Americans in film and new media, and assisting at charity fundraisers.
What I look forward to most during my reign as Queen is spearheading community service projects. This month, the Court members and I will be volunteering our time with Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy to grow our national parks through seed collection, propagation, transplanting, and pruning plants. Next month, we will be volunteering with Brides Against Breast Cancer by helping brides find their dream wedding gowns; the gown sales will go toward funding programs that are free to cancer patients and their families. Lastly, I look forward to combining my law school education and experience working at pro bono legal clinics to provide legal outreach to Vietnamese Americans in the Sacramento area.
I am truly excited about this upcoming year. I encourage you to continue following our blog to read about our events and activities. I hope you will continue to follow our adventures via our Facebook Page, where you can view our photos and receive our latest updates. Thank you for supporting the 2013 MVNCI Court and joining us on our exciting journey.
See you soon!
Queen Yolanda Vo