Kenji Moua spent most of Saturday night being referred to as contestant number two.
As the Mister and Miss Asian Oklahoma State University scholarship pageant had Moua and his fellow contestants line up on the stage for the overall result, he impatiently waited for the judge’s decision.
“I was just really nervous, really stressed," Moua said. "I didn’t know what was going to happen and what the turnout was going to be.”
The MCs for the night finally announced Moua and Sara Karki, a finance and marketing junior. They were crowned Mister and Miss Asian OSU.
This year marks the 10th anniversary of the Miss Asian OSU pageant. Vanessa Wong, the president of the Asian American Student Association, said with that milestone comes a lot of pressure to live up to expectations.
“It feels really good, but it puts a huge pressure on us because it is a huge milestone,” Wong said, “Ten years is not something really small, it is something to be proud of so we really wanted to make this a great event, so we put in so much hard work and effort.”
The pageant allowed participants to showcase their culture in a series of segments, ranging from a talent portion to dressing in traditional wear and answering extemporaneous questions focused on issues related to Asian-Americans.
The winners of the pageant are judged based on their performances in those categories. Nikole Vargas, Miss Asian at the University of Oklahoma, was one of the five judges. Vargas said she agreed to be a judge to support the community.
“I was asked to come and support by being a judge and of course I said yes to help the Asian-American community, not only in my university but at universities across Oklahoma,” Vargas said.
As a contestant herself last year, Vargas said it was nice to have a different perspective from the other judges.
“It is kind of funny how you see both sides, you see both sides of the story and I realize all the hard work, the blood, sweat and tears they put into this pageant,” Vargas said. “I think I look for confidence. I think that’s half the battle when you present yourself. The other biggest thing was the issues facing our Asian-American community... Do they know about them? How do they approach those situations and issues? As a royalty, you have to be the face of the community. Can you speak on behalf of the community and can you be a voice?”
To showcase her talent, Karki performed a mashup of different styles of South Asian dances. Her demonstration of skill impressed the judges enough for her to earn the Best Talent Award in the competition.
“It is an amazing feeling because… I don’t think a lot of people from South Asian cultures, South Asian countries, don’t really know a lot about this pageant,” Karki said. “I am very happy to represent Nepal and AASA.”
With the crowning of Mister and Miss Asian OSU, the reign of last year’s winners comes to an end. Although that reign doesn’t officially end until sometime in June, Courtney Brendal, a physiology sophomore and Miss Asian OSU 2018, said she still feels she has accomplished a lot since earning the title.
“When I fondly look back in the summer at the end of my reign, it’s kinda bittersweet,” Brendal said. “It’s been really crazy trying to make sure all of the pageant planning and making sure all my platforms have been represented properly on campus, but overall I’ve had the most incredible leadership experience and overall personal growth experience.”
Mister and Miss Asian OSU exposed and educated the audience on a wide range of Asian cultures. Moua said showcasing and promoting the importance of culture was his platform and what he credits his win to.
“I feel that we’re all the same, but we’re all different in our own way, and I feel that promoting diversity all across the world is very important because we get to learn new ideas, new thoughts, new ways to do things,” Moua said. “The importance of my platform was to express how embracing your culture is very importance to one’s life.”