By Carli Teproff and Judith Hudson, The Miami Herald
Jul. 15–May Shir Igawa had just sat down on the stool ready for her “up do” when the warning came.
First it was in Cantonese, a dialect the Japanese-Israeli-American teenager did not recognize.
Then the announcement came again — this time in English.
“It’s time to go,” said some of May’s new friends.
In about two minutes, the nervous 17-year-old’s long, thick, dark-brown locks were transformed into a twist that sat on top of her head adorned with flowers. A cloud of hair spray helped to keep the handiwork in place.
Nothing at that moment could tell May she would soon be crowned Miss Florida Asia out seven other girls at North Miami Beach’s Julius Littman Performing Arts Theater on Saturday night.
And when the moment came, the soon-to-be senior at Doral’s John Ferguson High School tried to hold back tears. Kayla Chin Luke, 22 was named second princess and Tia Bao-Tran Vo, 20, was named first princess. “I am just happy to be a part of this,” May said. “It keeps me in touch with my Asian roots.” It is the second year North Miami Beach’s theater played host to the pageant that draws contestants from across South Florida. The girls compete for $1,500 in cash and the crown of Miss Florida Asia.
“North Miami Beach is not only centrally located,” said the pageant’s producer Winnie Tang, “over the years it as become the center of Asian culture.”
Tang said the pageant also draws Asians to the community, which could further an effort to establish a China Town along Northeast 163rd Street in the city.
Several months ago Tang started recruiting young, talented Asian girls representing countries east of Turkey, including Japan, Iran, China, Vietnam and the Philippines. In its second year, Tang said referrals came easily.
“I think many people are proud of their culture and want to share it,” she said.
The pageant, which started with the pulsating sound coming from Japanese drummers, included competitions in which the girls could showcase their countries.
During the talent portion, 18-year-old Mimi Goon, who lives in Plantation and is originally from China, performed a Chinese ballet. During the national costume portion, three girls representing China wore Qipaos — traditional dresses. May, representing Japan, wore a Kimono.
Before the eight girls were set to take the stage for the evening gown competition, May was feeling the pressure.
“I have to go,” she said as she hurried to the left side of the stage. “I am the last one.”
The tall, thin beauty-pageant novice was then ushered onto the stage following the other girls who were decked out in sparkly long gowns.
One by one, the girls strutted across stage to the sounds of screams and applause from the crowd.
Vo, a student at Florida Atlantic University who was representing Vietnam, said even though she came in second it did not matter. She agrees with May that friendship and cultural awareness is much more important. She encourages girls to enter the pageant.
“The pageant is not only about beauty, but intelligence also plays a part,” Vo said.
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