Genevieve Cordery's Philippine ancestry often goes unnoticed because the native U.S. citizen speaks and dresses so much like other students in her high school.
The 17-year-old's heritage will be more obvious when she steps on stage Saturday at UNC Charlotte for the talent portion of the ninth annual Miss Asia Carolinas pageant.
Cordery will perform a highly technical dance, stepping gracefully to the tapping of bamboo sticks.
Behind the choreography is an ancient story of a prince and princess who meet and fall in love in the Philippine Islands.
The dance and the costume she's chosen are a way for Cordery to give the audience a glimpse at the Southeast Asian culture she first knew as her mother's and then as her own.
"I know that I'm part of two completely different worlds," said Cordery, whose father met and married her mother in the tropical archipelago. "When people first look at me they don't see the Asian side of me. I am more passionate about letting people know."
The talent show for the Carolinas Asian-American Chamber of Commerce's Miss Asia Carolinas pageant is more a showcase of Asian culture than a traditional beauty contest, said Nini Bautista, the chamber board member who created the event.
This part of the pageant is a way to recognize distinctions within Charlotte's Asian communities.
It's also a social event when different groups get together for rehearsals and other preparations.
"That's why I love to go to practices," Cordery said. "You turn around and your friends are standing right next to you."
Eleven girls and women ages 16 to 24 will compete this year. Eleven others who may be older and younger will participate in other parts of the show, representing one of 16 Asian cultures.
They come from Charlotte, Harrisburg, Concord, Monroe and Gastonia.
Final judging and a coronation will take place on May 7 at Ramsey Creek Park, during the 12th annual Asian Festival. The Asian chamber is also an organizer of that event.
Judges for the pageant will choose Miss Asia Carolinas, first and second runners up, Miss Talent, Miss Congeniality and Miss Photogenic.
The winners will take home about six scholarships worth a total of about $2,000.
Winners will be picked based on intelligence, talent, community service, extracurricular activities, leadership, personality, character and beauty.
China, India, Japan, Korea, Thailand and Vietnam are generally represented every year.
For a vibrant showcase, Bautista says it's just as important to get contestants from America's lesser-known Asian communities.
This year, the pageant also will have participants representing Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar and Nepal. Hmong and Montagnards also will participate.
"We want the cultural preservation," Bautista said. "Once the candidates experience this event, they are prouder of their cultural roots and their heritage. They develop a sense of community and aim for community cohesiveness."