“Start by doing what is necessary, then do what is possible, and soon you will be doing the impossible.”
I had never competed in a pageant before. This was my first time, and it took so much of my courage to apply because it felt like such a risk. I watched Miss America every year since I was a little girl, but never in a million years did I think I would participate in a pageant, let alone actually win one! I never thought I was skinny enough or a nerdy engineer like me belonged in the pageant world. I realized, I have spent my entire life breaking down walls that people put up before me, and this pageant could be my chance to change even more stereotypes.
I grew up on a farm in a small town in eastern Washington. I was raised by my farmer father, who is full Japanese, and my mother who is Irish, French, and Native American. It is safe to say my town had a very small Asian population. One day in kindergarten, a girl came up to me and told me that I wasn’t allowed to play with my fair-skinned, blond, and blue-eyed friends because my hair and my skin were too dark. Obviously in kindergarten, I never thought of myself as different from the other kids, but at that moment I realized I was different. I didn’t look like the other kids I went to school with, and my home life and traditions were much different than those of my friends (I was shocked when I found out not everyone had a rice cooker in their house!). As I got older, these differences become more prominent and easy for me to recognize. I decided to embrace those differences instead of letting them hold me back.
I was stereotyped a lot especially during middle school and high school, but I did not want to live in a world where I was inhibited by the social confines of what people thought I should and should not be good at just because of my appearance. I was the girl who sang the national anthem for her own varsity basketball games and track meets. I was a 5’3” hurdler in high school and a dang good one too! I was a district champion, a state qualifier, and I would beat girls in the high hurdlers who were 6 feet tall, with legs as tall as me, and built like hurdlers. People looked at me like I was crazy when I said I wanted to run the hurdles because I was so short. I also auditioned for and the received the part of the red-headed Annie in our high school’s musical production of Annie when I was a sophomore! I received so many funny looks when I told people I would be playing Annie in our high school’s musical until they heard me sing. Even coming to college in California, where the culture is so diverse with so many people from all walks of life, I was still felt set apart from the crowd as a female engineering student. I had to fight for my respect here and to show that women are just as smart and talented as men in STEM fields. I have decided no matter what people say, I am going to live my own life and accomplish the things that I want to accomplish and not let anything stand in my way.
I had to use this same mentality when competing for Miss Santa Clara. My engineering friends thought I was joking when I said I would be competing in a pageant. They did not think a pageant was a place for engineers because they only thought of pageants as a competition to see who is prettier and can do their makeup the best when it is SO much more than that! It is a scholarship program where anyone who wants to compete can, and anyone can have the chance to win. With my title, I want to break down the walls and stereotypes that come with the word “pageant”. I am the last person I ever thought would win a pageant, and I want people to know that you can be an engineer and still wear the crown. I plan to use my title as Miss Santa Clara to share my story and show that if this small-town, farm girl can become an engineer AND Miss Santa Clara, then absolutely nothing is impossible with hard work and dedication!