The Vietnamese Student Association is hosting its annual Miss Vietnam Southern Arizona pageant to educate the Tucson community on the culture, and eight of the nine contestants this year are UA students.
Julia Nguyen, a care, health, and society senior and this year’s pageant coordinator, said the pageant initially began to connect young Vietnamese American women with each other and to help them grow into well-rounded and diverse members of society.
During this year’s event, the women will be modeling traditional Vietnamese dress áo dài, Windsor evening dresses and completing two rounds of question and answers. The women will also perform a traditional group dance.
“The girls want to be how the dress is–still elegant, even though throughout time it’s been modernized,” Nguyen said. “They can be elegant, but also fierce.”
Nguyen said people outside the Tucson Vietnamese community may appreciate the exposure to a new culture if they choose to attend.
Trinh Nguyen, neuroscience and cognitive science junior, is the treasurer for VSA. She moved from Phoenix and said the Vietnamese community in Tucson has been exceptionally welcoming and helpful during her time at UA so far.
She said the pageant is more like a culture show, where older people inside the Vietnamese community will get to see the younger generations reconnect with their heritage and acknowledge the Vietnamese culture as an important influence in their sometimes “Americanized” lives.
Julia Nguyen said the Tucson Vietnamese community hosts annually is a crawfish festival at the Vietnamese church in Tucson, Our Lady of La Vang.
Another Vietnamese tradition the Tucson community celebrates is the Moon Festival, also called the Mid-Autumn Festival, where younger adults present elders with the traditional food of mooncakes, a crusted bun with a variety of fillings, as a sign of respect, according to Julia Nguyen.
“When we’re in college, we tend to forget our history,” Trinh Nguyen said. “The Vietnamese culture is always growing, but not a lot of people know about it.”
She said she hopes the event will raise awareness and emphasize Vietnamese students are a more prominent group on campus than most people might think.
One of the contestants, Brittany Nguyen, said racism is one obstacle facing Vietnamese people in America today still. She hopes being exposed to authentic Vietnamese values will prompt audience members to leave with more perspective and fewer misconceptions in mind than those they brought to the pageant.
he profits from ticket sales will be used towards the club’s events for the next school year. The other events are all designed to connect the Tucson community to Vietnamese-American students and the Vietnamese Tucson community to each other.
Meet the Contestants:
Jacqueline Nguyen, a business management junior. She said Vietnamese culture plays an active role in her day-to-day life and represents values she hopes to instill in her own children one day.
Josephine Uong, a molecular and cellular biology junior. Uong said building friendships and stronger ties to her Vietnamese background were the most exciting parts of participating in the pageant for her.
Sandy Trieu, a retail and consumer science freshman. Trieu hopes the pageant will provide people in the community an authentic representation of the culture rather than enforce stereotypes.
Brittney Le, the only contestant still in high school. She plans on studying medicine or music once she enters college and said she entered the pageant to make friends and build cultural awareness in the Tucson community.
Tiffany Pham, a mathematics and chemistry freshman. Phan said she finds it interesting to watch how people can find ways to balance American culture with Vietnamese culture.
Brittany Nguyen, a nutritional sciences freshman. She said Vietnamese influence has taught her to empathize more with people from other cultures and to practice humility in her everyday life.
An Luu, a physiology freshman. Luu said the Vietnamese culture has taught her the importance of respecting family members, especially those in positions of seniority.
Cindy Truong, a public health sophomore. For Truong the pageant has given her an opportunity to grow closer to her family’s background, because when she was younger she wasn’t very aware of Vietnamese culture.
Teresa Nguyen, a pre-business freshman. Nguyen said VSA has given her a family here in Tucson and made her aware there are many other students like her who take pride in where their families come from.
Miss Vietnam Southern Arizona is Saturday, April 8, from 6-10 p.m. at the Tucson Expo Center at 3750 E. Irvington Rd. Pre-sale tickets are $20 and tickets at the door are $27 with VIP tickets available for $30 and $37. Learn more on the event’s Facebook page.
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