A Feeling of Belonging: Asian American Women's Public Culture, 1930-1960

By Shirley Jennifer Lim | Go to book overview

4
Contested Beauty
Asian American Beauty Culture
during the Cold War

Nearly five thousand people enjoyed a July 4th picnic at picturesque
Adobe Creek Lodge here under the auspices of the Chinese Ameri-
can Citizens Alliance, and watched the crowning of “Miss China-
town, 1950.” The attendance …was the largest single gathering of
Chinese in America ever. —Chinese Press, July 1950

CDA [Caballeros de Dimas Alang] Popularity Contest Looms As One
of the Biggest Events of Its Kind

Popularity Contest of Manila Post 464 for “Miss Manila” Now in
Full Swing —Los Angeles Philippine Star Press, Sept. 11, 1950

In the post–World War II era, leading Asian American civil rights groups such as the Chinese American Citizens League and the Caballeros de Dimas Alang centered their annual meetings on beauty pageants. As the above Asian American press excerpts show, beauty pageants enjoyed tremendous salience. Other contemporary queen contests ranged from the one that selected the Cotton Queen to the Miss Portrait of Spring of Chicago, and from the Seattle Seafair Queen to the Page One newspaper queen. The prevalence of this peculiar institution at this historical moment speaks to the convergence of particular imperatives of politics and community. The ability of a racial minority and/or postcolonial community to select an ideal female citizen through a beauty pageant demonstrated modernity, the fitness of colonial subjects for self-rule, and,

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