Going into this pageant, I had no idea of what to expect. I joined to get out of my comfort zone and to meet new people; I just wanted to do something different. Little did I know, this whole experience would change my life. From the Meet and Greet, I was able to meet all of the other contestants, the director, Jessica, and the 2014 Court. Everyone was so nice, but everything became serious when we went over all of the guidelines and competition. I knew I had a lot of work ahead of me. I was determined to exceed in all of the portions of pageant. I started to look for outfits and potential sponsors. The contestant photoshoot came along and it was so different from the photos I was used to taking. My face was caked from all of the make-up and my hair was teased to look voluminous like a lion’s mane. It definitely was something I was not used to. At first, I felt awkward posing for my pictures and really lacked confidence, but the photographer, Moses, and my mentor, Cathy, made me feel more comfortable and confident throughout the whole shoot by guiding me and telling me how to pose. At the end of the day, each contestant got a tiara and it reminded me that even though I was not used to doing a pageant, I was in it for the experience.
I remember being really scared my first practice because I didn’t really know what we had to practice for and I was intimidated by the other girls. I was so awkward and clumsy; there was no way someone like me could hold a title. I felt so discouraged during the first practice because I couldn’t do my introduction. I hated public speaking. Not only did I forget my lines, but my Vietnamese was terrible as well. I wanted to give up trying to speak in Vietnamese, but I really wanted to be able to introduce myself to show my family that I was proud of my culture. Besides the introduction, we had a workshop and we were taught the introduction dance. The workshop was very helpful and taught me how to get sponsors. More than anything, I wanted the title of Miss Entrepreneur because it seemed like something I would enjoy since I am a Business and Management, Economics major. I felt so inspired to do my best to “sell myself” as a brand. After the workshop, we jumped into the fan dance. Our choreographer, Mary, taught us the introduction dance. The song and moves were so beautiful and graceful; it made the dance easy to learn and very enjoyable.
These practices happened week after week. I was tired of commuting from Merced to San Jose every week, but everything I gained from the practices made it worth it. I made 11 new friends that I adore so much. My pageant sisters pushed me to do my best and gave me the confidence I needed when I started to doubt myself. I knew that the relationships I made with these girls will be long lasting. We always had something new to learn every week. Besides learning how to get sponsors, we were also taught how to answer poise and personality questions on the spot, how to prepare for interviews, and how to network. All of these skills are beneficial because I would be able to apply them to “the real world.” These lessons were definitely things that we wouldn’t be able to learn from school. Aside from all of that, I learned how to be classy and elegant. The dance was not a problem for me but the walks were challenging. It was definitely not easy learning how to do the different walks for evening gown and ao dai. I had to practice walking with different paces with my 6 inch heels in my own house.
As more practices went by, I struggled to find an evening gown, an ao dai, and more sponsors. I had to go to numerous places to find a seamstress that would fix my evening gown since it was too big. I was determined to get it altered because I was in love with it. After that, I had my ao dai made in Vietnam, but it was stressful because it did not ship out until a few days before pageant. Although I had to pay for express shipping, I am so happy with the results because my very first ao dai came out to be so beautiful. After getting both of my outfits, I focused on getting more sponsors because I really wanted to do well in this portion of the pageant. I started with my warm market and asked all of my friends and family. I was so thankful (and I still am) to be around supportive and loving people. I even asked the companies that my friends and family work at and my dentist; they were so excited to help me in any way that they could. Eventually, I ran out of people I knew that could sponsor me and I knew that meant going out of my comfort zone to ask the cold market. Although I got rejected several times, I was able to get a few sponsors that I was able to network with. I was pleased with the number of sponsors and ticket sales I got.
Pageant day finally came around and I remember it being hectic. I woke up at 6AM with few hours of sleep because I was so nervous. I fell asleep while my make-up artist was doing my face! I made it to the venue at 10AM and we settled into our dressing rooms. After practicing for a few hours, we were all so excited for the show to start. I felt so overwhelmed with so many emotions, at some point I almost cried with the girls about how happy we were to be in this together. At 2PM, the show started and all of the adrenaline kicked in. I was so proud of myself for being able to speak in front of all of those people. Not only did I say my introduction in Vietnamese, but I also passed the poise and personality questions which were the hardest portion for me. Making it into top 8 was already great, but being in top 5 was even better. All the practice questions I did leading up to pageant day definitely made a big difference. Finally, it was time for the crowning. I was filled with joy when they announced my name for Miss Entrepreneur. I worked so hard to get this title and it was rewarding to see that it paid off. I could see my friends and family screaming for me and taking endless amounts of photos. That very moment was the proudest moment of my life. I am so glad that I got out of my comfort zone to do the MVNCI Pageant because I got to learn new skills, build lifelong relationships, and become a better version of myself. I wouldn’t trade this experience for the world and I am so excited to see what happens next.