Miss CA: Key to success is to 'keep trying'
Updated: 2014-05-01 11:28
By Luo Wangshu and Tan Yingzi in Chongqing (China Daily USA)
In 2001, Elaine Chao became the first Chinese-American woman to join the cabinet of a US president. Eight years later, Barack Obama became the first African-American president of the United States. In 2011, Gary Locke became the first Chinese-American ambassador to China.
They are examples of members of American ethnic groups who have achieved great success. And like them, Chinese-American Crystal Lee's rise to prominence was not easy. "I did not win the first year," said Lee, who was named Miss California in 2013. "I came back and competed again. As immigrants to the United States, my grandparents and parents have taught me that the only way to make it is to keep tying."
The 22-year-old was the first runner-up in the Miss America 2014 pageant, and the second Chinese-American Miss California in the 89-year history of the pageant. Her pageant career started in 2007 at the age of 15, when she participated in the Miss Teen Chinatown competition.
"I was under a lot of pressure in high school. I was either dancing, sleeping or doing schoolwork," she recalled. "I was like a zombie at high school."
After classes, Lee practiced dancing for four hours every day. "I was sore and tired when I got home. I always took a nap and then did my schoolwork," she said.
A beaming Crystal Lee shortly after being crowned Miss California in 2013. Provided to China Daily
Lee's hard work paid off. She performed the ballet The Dying Swan during the Miss America pageant.
Lee is a graduate of Stanford University and holds a bachelor's degree in human biology and a master's in communication.
Lee said her success shows that people from all different backgrounds can perform well at the pageant. "It may remind people that Miss America is not always Caucasian or African American, but can be Chinese-American or Indian-American," she said.
The winner of the Miss American 2014 pageant, Nina Davuluri, is an Indian-American, and Lee fondly recalled the moment when she and Davuluri, both women of color, were the last two contestants on stage.
Like many immigrant families, Lee attributes her success to her mother Wendy Lee, a Taiwanese "tiger mother".
"I have faith in my daughter's potential, and I encourage her to aim high," Wendy Lee said.
"In the United States, the competitions are intense and the girls are under pressure when they grow up. Our shoulders are always there for them to lean on.
"For Chinese-Americans to win pageants in the US mainstream society, they need to work three times as hard as the blond contestants."
As Miss California 2013, Lee's current job is to represent the American Pistachio Growers, traveling around the world.
Judy Hirigoyen, director of the global marketing department of the America Pistachio Growers, spoke highly of Lee.
"We are impressed by Crystal. She is a very good role model for young people," she said.
Lee enjoys the work and the travel that comes with it.
"I am interested in marketing and the skills of being an ambassador of pistachios will help me refine the necessary skills," she said, adding that the healthy and nutritious snack matches the image of Miss California.
Lee plans to start her own business in technology when her duties as Miss California end in June.
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(China Daily USA 05/01/2014 page1)