YOURS TRULY, MISS CHINATOWN Screening – Wednesday, April 8, 7pm, Broad Hall 210, Pitzer College

April 1, 2009 at 10:00 pm 14 comments

Three Women Set Out to be Miss Chinatown, and Wound Up Finding Themselves

misschinatown-blog2

In person: Daisy Lin Shapiro (Director), Kristina Wong (Performance Artist), and surprise guest!

Ever since the very first Miss Chinatown was crowned in 1958, the titleholder has been a highly recognizable Asian American icon at once admired and reviled.  At the center of the storm are the women themselves, who get just a few seconds to speak on stage. What are these women really like?  Who are they beneath the glossy facade?

Set against the backdrop of glittering crowns, colorful dresses, and lively dance music in one of the oldest and biggest ethnic pageants in the United States, “Yours Truly, Miss Chinatown” features the intimate stories of some unforgettable young women who vie for the title Miss Los Angeles Chinatown, while struggling to define themselves in two cultures with different values and expectations.  The crown is a link to the past, while the women’s lives are a sign of the changing times.

A beautiful and poised teacher is the perfect candidate but a disappointment in her father’s eyes because her boyfriend is African American; a half White, half Chinese tomboy joins the pageant because she thinks it will make her more Chinese.  Meanwhile, a Miss Chinatown imposter shows up around town – she wears a sash and gown, but sports a cigar, granny glasses, and tells bad jokes.  Turns out she is really performance artist Kristina Wong, who grew up in the shadow of Miss Chinatown but found that she could never live up to this ideal image.   If she couldn’t beat them, she figured, she would still join them.

Documentary cameras follow the lives of these three subjects for several years, at a pivotal time as they are just starting to find out who they are as women.   As the drama of their lives unfold, so do frank conversations about romantic relationships, familial dynamics, body image, mental health, career, and identity.   What emerges are some of the rarely heard voices of young Asian American women at the turn of the 21st century.

For more information on the film, or to see the trailer, go to the Yours Truly, Miss Chinatown web site

Posted by Ming-Yuen S. Ma

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Who Killed Vincent Chin? Hollywood Chinese

14 Comments Add your own

  • 1. rylee rubalcava  |  April 8, 2009 at 8:17 pm

    -Why is the title of Miss Chinatown so sought after by these young women?

    -Are beauty pageants portrayed in a negative light in this documentary?

    -Why is it important to know the women behind the glossy facade?

    Reply
  • 2. Tommy Meyer  |  April 8, 2009 at 9:00 pm

    1. What sparked your interest in creating the BBCM character? Were you simply trying to defy the stereotype of Asian women?

    2. Would you say that BBCM has had a positive affect on Asian women? In what ways?

    3. Would you say that the Miss Chinatown Beauty Pageant does more good or harm for the Asian American community? What about the portrayal of Asian American women?

    4. “Critics argued that Miss Chinatown did not represent the ‘real’ Chinatown women who tended to be working class or the revolutionary Asian women in the Third World. Pageant supporters responded by emphasizing the importance of beautiful and articulate Chinese American women as role models for promoting respect for the community.” What are your thoughts on this?

    5. How influential did you finish the pageant to be in the community and in a broader sense?

    Reply
  • 3. Brandon Sze, Fred Chang  |  April 8, 2009 at 10:44 pm

    – What was your intention in making this film, and who was he intended audience?

    – In the synopsis of the film, you noted that this documentary “features the intimate stories of some unforgettable young women who vie for the title Miss Los Angeles Chinatown, while struggling to define themselves in two cultures with different values and expectations.” Why did you chose to portray the struggle of cultural identity in Chinese Americans through this beauty pageant? How are the experiences and struggle of these young Chinese American women different from, or more significant than that of other Chinese Americans’?

    – What was the purpose of creating the Big Bad Chinese Mama?

    – The reading suggests that “through BBCM, Wong has utilized the current discourse surrounding Asian women and makes that into a site of resistance.” How did you achieve this?

    – Have people ever misunderstood your purpose of creating the BBCM? If so, what were your justifications?

    Reply
  • 4. Brandon Sze  |  April 8, 2009 at 10:46 pm

    Sorry, the comment box automatically put “Brandon Sze, Fred Chang” as my name. The previous comment was written by Brandon alone.

    Reply
  • 5. Brandon Sze  |  April 8, 2009 at 10:47 pm

    – What was your intention in making this film, and who was he intended audience?

    – In the synopsis of the film, you noted that this documentary “features the intimate stories of some unforgettable young women who vie for the title Miss Los Angeles Chinatown, while struggling to define themselves in two cultures with different values and expectations.”

    – What was the purpose of creating the Big Bad Chinese Mama?

    – The reading suggests that “through BBCM, Wong has utilized the current discourse surrounding Asian women and makes that into a site of resistance.” How did you achieve this?

    – Do people often misunderstand your purpose of creating the BBCM? If so, what were your justifications?

    Reply
  • 6. Brandon Sze  |  April 8, 2009 at 10:50 pm

    – What was your intention in making this film, and who was he intended audience?

    – In the synopsis of the film, you noted that this documentary “features the intimate stories of some unforgettable young women who vie for the title Miss Los Angeles Chinatown, while struggling to define themselves in two cultures with different values and expectations.” Why did you chose to portray this struggle of cultural identity of Chinese Americans through the beauty pageant? How are the experience and struggle of these young Chinese American women different from or more significant than that of other Chinese Americans’?

    – What was the purpose of creating the Big Bad Chinese Mama?

    – The reading suggests that “through BBCM, Wong has utilized the current discourse surrounding Asian women and makes that into a site of resistance.” How did you achieve this?

    – Do people often misunderstand your purpose of creating the BBCM? If so, what were your justifications?

    Reply
  • 7. Brandon Sze  |  April 8, 2009 at 10:51 pm

    sorry, please ignore my first two posts…

    Reply
  • 8. Fred Chang  |  April 8, 2009 at 10:56 pm

    for Ms. Shapiro:
    What was the reason/motivation for making this film?
    What was your goal for making this film? And what was your intended audience?

    for Ms. Wong:
    How did the real Miss Chinatown/Miss Chinatown committee feel about your “performances” at their events?
    Do you feel that the current Miss Chinatown competition still “objectify” Asian American women as they did in the early days of the competition or have they resolve this issue?

    Reply
  • 9. Matthew Park  |  April 9, 2009 at 12:40 am

    How much of a celebrity would a Miss Chinatown be?

    the Judge’s original thoughts originally consisted of t”centuries-old Chinese concept of beauty such as melon-seed face, new moon eyebrows, phoenix eyes, peachlike cheek, shapely nose, cherry lips, medium height, willowy figure, radiant smile and jet black hair.” Is this emphasis on traditional Chinese beauty still placed? or has it changed to accommodate a quite different standard of beauty that the popular audience may be more familiar with? How do the critics claims that “the more you look like a white woman, the prettier you are.” intertwine with this?

    Do you have any regrets in the way you approached the creation of BBCM? Do you believe any specific changes could have made it more effective?

    Reply
  • 10. Bailey Busch  |  April 9, 2009 at 1:51 am

    -Does the pageant present an encompassing cultural representation?

    -Are there crucial ways in which the pageant serves the community?

    -What are the primary benefits of the pageants? Are there negative aspects as well?

    -Traditional beauty pageants are said to promote confidence; does Miss Chinatown do so in the same fashion, or are there additional levels of gain available for the participants/viewers?

    Reply
  • 11. asianamericansinmedia  |  April 9, 2009 at 1:58 am

    -Clearly, you have much personal experience with the Chinatown pageant. Do you think that other ethnically-oriented pageants in America have faced the same scrutiny as this pageant?

    -The fact that the pageant has survived so long is a testament to, among other things, the community’s support for it. Do you envision there being a time or set of circumstances where the pageant would be discontinued?

    -Have the standards of judging changed significantly over time, or is that merely an artifact of the changing lens through which different groups have interpreted the judge’s decisions?

    Reply
  • 12. asianamericansinmedia  |  April 9, 2009 at 1:58 am

    [The above by Steven Pankratz]

    Reply
  • 13. asianamericansinmedia  |  April 9, 2009 at 5:07 am

    Why do these women want to fit in the Miss Chinatown mold?

    Why hasn’t the pageant format changed with the times? It all seems so fake and superficial, which is a shame considering that people are real.

    Ms. Wong, how do you get the courage for your performances?!

    Reply
  • 14. asianamericansinmedia  |  April 9, 2009 at 5:08 am

    oops, above was by Michelle Fong

    Reply

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