Heated Debate on the Ethnic Beauty Pageant

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:
Heated Debate on the Ethnic Beauty Pageant

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This chapter examines the extent to which participants have transformed the Miss Chinatown U.S.A. beauty pageant in San Francisco since the late 1960s. While many contestants achieved their personal agendas through the competition, their entries were also manipulated and exploited by ethnic leaders and community and family members in order to fulfill various purposes. In 1958, community leaders created an ideal Chinese American femininity through the national ethnic beauty pageant. Many contestants entered the Miss Chinatown U.S.A. beauty pageant to pursue personal interests, which either overlapped or conflicted with the interests of other Chinese Americans who held a stake in the event. The pageant produced the “model minority” image, which conformed to mainstream gender norms, consumption values, and work ethics, as well as Confucian hierarchy and obedience. This served to negotiate the Chinese American racialized and gendered position, to maintain male patriarchal control, and to attract tourists to Chinatown. Moreover, ethnic and feminist movements in the late 1960s and early 1970s motivated liberals, radicals, and feminists to see the pageant as a battleground for ethnic pride and gender equality.

Keywords: Miss Chinatown U.S.A.; beauty pageant; San Francisco; femininity; model minority; radicals; feminists; ethnic pride; gender equality; Chinese Americans

Chapter.  7868 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History of the Americas

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