University City residents had a great opportunity to experience the variety, beauty, tradition and color of the world's largest and most populated continent when the Miss Asia Carolinas pageant held preliminary judging at the UNC Charlotte Barnhardt Activities Center last Saturday night.
Heading toward the final competition and crowning of the 2011 Miss Asia Carolinas, to be held today at the Asian Festival at Ramsey Creek Park in Cornelius, a panel of judges selected Miss Congeniality, Miss Photogenic and Miss Talent winners from a field of 11 finalists representing Asian countries.
A crowd of about 300 came to the UNCC campus to cheer for their family members and friends at the event sponsored by the Carolinas Asian-American Chamber of Commerce.
Genevieve Cordery, winner of the Miss Photogenic and Miss Talent sashes, enjoyed the support of an enthusiastic and vocal crowd of supporters from the Philippines. Miss Congeniality was Carolyn Bahar of Indonesia.
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The University City area was well represented in the talent phase of the contest, with three UNC Charlotte and one local high school student in the list of country representatives.
UNC Charlotte students Jingyi Chen from China and Uyanga Ganbold from Mongolia performed dances from their countries while garbed in traditional costumes from their native lands. Tiffani Dang, a 22-year-old political science major, sang ballads inspired by tragedies in the Vietnam War, with a background of images from that conflict.
Ayeshadiri Putri, near completion of her year as an exchange student at Vance High School, displayed her voice and keyboard talents in a medley composed of western and Indonesian music.
Putri, 18, found the pageant an ideal way to fulfill one duty of the scholarship from the U.S. Department of State that brought her to the United States.
"I've never done this kind of thing before, but I think it is so nice to represent my country and share my culture, and that's actually one of my responsibilities here to complete my exchange agreement," Putri said.
"I kind of messed up on my talent part," the 18-year-old said, "but people got to see my national dress and see something about what our culture is, so it's still really been a good experience."
Several of the contestants added that in addition to sharing something of their cultures, they were happy to learn so much about the traditions of the other countries represented, as well.
"I got to learn a lot about so many other cultures from many great girls I met here," said Ganbold, 18, who is studying in the intensive English program at UNCC.
Chen, a 20-year old mathematics major from Sichuan, China, was surprised to learn at one point that there were no other Chinese entrants, so she decided to compete. "I did something like this once in China when I was about 16, but, of course, everyone else was Chinese," said Chen, "but here, I had to speak English only of course, and I learned a lot from all the other girls."
Despite worlds of differences, similarities with other Charlotteans often popped into the conversations - including the abundant greenery of the Queen City and associated issues.
"Charlotte is so beautiful, but one hard thing is the allergies," said Ganbold with a laugh. "It's spring, and the allergies are so bad, but I like the blue skies and all the trees."