Chapter

Constructing A “Model Minority”Identity

Chiou-Ling Yeh

in Making an American Festival

Published by University of California Press

Published in print February 2008 | ISBN: 9780520253506
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520942431 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1525/california/9780520253506.003.0004
Constructing A “Model Minority”Identity

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In 1958, seventeen contestants from California, Illinois, New York, Massachusetts, Florida, and Connecticut came to San Francisco to compete for the first national “Miss Chinatown U.S.A.” beauty pageant, held at the Great China Theatre in Chinatown. Ethnic beauty pageants such as Miss Chinatown U.S.A. were the highlight of the contemporary Chinese New Year Festival. Contestants had to participate in various festival events: in addition to competition night, they had to attend a coronation party, a fashion show, and ride on a parade float. Another requirement was to appear in the events sponsored by their family associations. These activities turned contestants into ethnic celebrities. By redefining womanhood, ethnic leaders rearticulated their ideal Chinese American: women and men who were equipped with certain cultural traits such as middle-class gender ideals, higher education, and work ethics that promoted economic success. Moreover, they observed Confucian ideas such as filial piety and gender hierarchy. Through this model minority identity, ethnic leaders attempted to transform Chinese Americans into ethnic minorities and integrate them into mainstream America.

Keywords: Miss Chinatown U.S.A.; San Francisco; Chinese Americans; beauty pageants; Chinese New Year; womanhood; higher education; ethnic minorities; work ethic; model minority

Chapter.  7124 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History of the Americas

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