Fourteen women will throw their hats into the ring for a chance at the Miss Vietnam Florida crown this Sunday.
Of the fourteen contestants, a few hail from UCF, including Lily Nguyen, a senior majoring in event management and contestant No. 7, who is competing for the first time.
“I’ve had a couple friends participate last year in the past. They talked to me about their experience," Nguyen said. "This is my last semester at UCF, and I wanted to challenge myself, and so that’s why I decided to do it. In the Vietnamese community, a pageant is a big deal, and it shows you're active in your community and you care.” Another big reason for competing is to build relationships with other women like herself.
At the Central Florida Fairgrounds at noon, the contestants will be judged in four competitions that are worth 25 points each: traditional dresses (ao dai), a question round during which the questions and answers are preferably spoken in Vietnamese, talent and evening wear.
“For Miss Vietnam Florida, I believe it’s important to embrace who you are and speak in the language that you can express yourself well in but also be the most comfortable in," Nyugen said. "In my generation, there are many Vietnamese-Americans. I want to represent myself as Vietnamese-American because it’s important to embrace both cultures. You should be proud of who you are regardless of where you’re from."
For the talent performance, Nguyen will be speed painting something that represents the Vietnamese culture.
Nhatvy Thi Vo, the current Miss Vietnam Florida and a UCF health sciences alumna, said she recruited Nguyen because of her talent, grace and intelligence. Nguyen also possesses many leadership qualities the nonprofit organization looks for, she added.
Nguyen is one of the five UCF students competing this year, along with the other women who have been preparing for the event since Jan. 3, practicing every Sunday from noon to 4 p.m.
Whoever wins the queen crown will be responsible for attending events around the Vietnamese community.
“By attending these events, it’s your opportunity to reach out to people who voice their own opinion," Nguyen said. "You’re the person to represent them. I think the position of being queen [makes you] the voice for those who can’t speak for themselves.”
This year, the organization has added a Miss Talent, Miss Congeniality, Miss Photogenic, Miss Ao Dai and Miss Philanthropy into the mix, in addition to the royal court.
Each contestant was required to help raise money for an organization. This year, it chose Catalyst Foundation, a humanitarian organization that supports community programs in Vietnam to provide basic needs, job opportunities, counseling and education to prevent the trafficking of young children.
Nhatvy Thi Vo said that, collectively, about $5,000 has been raised. The contestant who raises the most money will be crowned Miss Philanthropy.
According to the MVF website, the purpose of the pageant is to inspire young women, "motivate the young generation to learn about and appreciate the language, art, and beauty of the Vietnamese culture."
Veronica Brezina is a Digital Producer for the Central Florida Future. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org