I had the honor of being chosen by Portrait Magazine China as one of the “Global 30 Most Influential People” in 2016. I enjoy answering questions more than speaking about myself unprompted, and these questions provided such an interesting dialogue that I had to share. The interview will be featured in their magazine throughout China, so in the meantime here is a (translated) excerpt for all of us in America!
Q: Do you care much about the evaluation of you on social networking and media?
A: I actually didn’t engage too much with social media before I started competing in the Miss America Organization 2 years ago; I’m wary about the implications of being too ‘plugged in’ (have you seen the Matrix???). I value a life that is present and mindful because that is what makes me feel the most purposeful. Obviously, social media is now a large part of my life but it doesn’t matter enough to where I depend on it for self validation. Technology is a powerful tool that I only try to use strategically to build something meaningful.
Q: For now, what would you like to say to those who criticized and misunderstood you?
A: The best thing about my job as Miss Michigan is being able to be engaged in my community and to learn from interacting with as many people as possible. Being able to reach billions of people on an international level has been eye-opening and enlightening, so I would say ‘thank you for giving me the opportunity to learn’. It’s not every day that an individual can see the true, raw nature of the human condition; it’s really quite beautiful to see human beings interact with one another from this perspective.
Q: What is your definition of ‘Female Beauty’?
A: “Female beauty” to me means very little; it really is quite fickle because with surgery and makeup or the right phone application any woman can attain ‘female beauty’. I believe that when any woman is empowered enough to bare herself unabashedly to the world and is not controlled by the ideals of others is when she is most ‘beautiful’. Many people will try to shame a strong woman because being liberated makes her dangerous and unstoppable, but overcoming that mindset is what I find the most breathtaking and admirable in any human being.
Q: Why did you choose automotive design as your major?
A: I chose automotive design because I enjoy pushing myself outside of my comfort zone. Not only would I have the opportunity to challenge myself creatively, but would also be able explore a very marginalized aspect of how we view women’s roles in society firsthand. Furthermore, I could in turn be another cog in the machine to combat the institutional momentum that has overwhelmed the progress of women on a fundamental level.
Q: What does success mean to you?
A: Success to me is being self aware enough to realize your own unique goals and passions, working hard in spite of those who disagree or don’t understand your purpose, and persevering in a humble and quiet triumph.
Q: Have you come back to China since you lived in America? What do you think is the most amazing and impressive change here in China?
A: I have visited Beijing many times since moving to the United States, and the most amazing change that I see is the steady empowerment of women. No longer are they adhering to social pressure to marry, have children and look a certain way, but they’re fulfilled through their careers and personal goals. It is exciting to see so many women living a full life for themselves.
Q: As an Asian women, what kind of difficulties have you confronted in America? How do you overcome?
The biggest obstacle for Asian-American women in the United States, personally, would be that many see our stereotype before seeing us as human beings. We are often perceived as exotic and hyper-sexual, meek, submissive, foreign, or a novel token; our struggles are reified and commodified to serve as an ‘understanding’ tool in the conversation of diversity. My biggest advice to overcome is not take culturally insensitive comments and actions personally. Every time an assumption is made, it is an opportunity to teach someone something new. It is a huge blessing and responsibility to take take slow but heavy steps toward comprehensive cultural competency.
Q: What is your life goal?
A: I have many life goals; most of which are rooted in humanitarian causes and uprooting institutionalized ideals. I said in my Miss America interview that my ultimate goal would to be to live a life where I could, on a philosophically consistent level, be named a Nobel Peace Prize Laureate for my work, and that goal rings louder in my heart every passing day. I’d also like 6 pack abs but I honestly think I have a higher chance of getting a Peace Prize.
Q: What did you want to, but didn’t finish in 2016?
A: There is still time in 2016 to achieve goals! But I try not to create goals on a year by year basis, rather I create tangible short term goals that span over the course of many years. Don’t ever limit yourself by thinking your dreams are over when the year is done or that there are deadlines to success, they are alive as long as you put in the work and dare to dream. Hashtag JUST DO IT. Don’t let your dreams be dreams.
Q: If you had the choice to dine with anyone, anywhere in the world, who would you choose and why?
A: Probably Edward Snowden and have dinner wherever he’s at right now. So probably somewhere in Russia? It may have to be over Skype though… but I could listen to him speak all day. Plus, I do love potatoes and borscht.
Q: If you had an opportunity to deliver a speech to the national people at the end of 2016, what would you like to speak about?
A: I’d like to speak about linguistic relativity and how the language you speak influences your perception of reality and time. I’d title it ‘Why Can’t We Remember Our Future?” because it sounds appropriately pretentious haha. This would be exciting to present to any nation because the differences in how various cultures interpret my speech would be used as data for further research concerning this subject.
Q: If you will be asked to be president suddenly in 2017, what country would you want to lead? And what would be the first thing you do after election?
A: I’d probably want to be the president of New Zealand or Iceland. They’re two of the world’s most peaceful countries so I think after I was elected I’d invite everyone over for dinner and make fairy bread together. It’s a pageant stereotype but I really do love world peace.
Q: What kind of a world do you hope to live in in 2017?
A. I want to live in an unpredictable world in 2017. This year has not disappointed and has constantly kept me on my toes; I do not like being comfortable and have high hopes for the growth coming during this upcoming year.