Shemoni Sheth wins Miss Asian Atlanta Scholarship Pageant
A pageant winner is judged on her charisma, confidence and capability to be a role model. Often such contests rely solely on physical appearances instead of identifying individuals who share a passion for community involvement, demonstrate leadership ability and exemplify scholastic achievements. The 2007 Miss Asian Atlanta Scholarship Pageant (MAASP) provided qualified women an opportunity to compete with their entire persona, not just looks. "I decided to participate in this pageant because it did not focus on superficial elements. A significant percentage was [weighed] on academic essays, interviews and talent – only a small percentage was based on the walk," said pageant winner Shimoni Sheth.
Fifteen talented Asian American women were chosen by the MAASP committee to compete for scholarships to "assist in furthering their dreams and ambitions." Co-directors of the program, Grace Liang and Gina Lee, along with the contestants chose to collect books to raise funds towards the development of schools in SE Asia by teaming up with Better World Books to assist ‘Room to Read' further their mission.
Dressed in traditional attire, the ladies introduced themselves to the audience by speaking in their native language. A majority of the contestants' points were scored prior to the pageant based on their application, the judge's interview and the talent segment. The contestant's GPA, age and ethnicity (50% Asian) were some of the predetermining criteria for eligibility.
After the five judges, including Fox 5 reporter Patty Pan, were introduced to the audience, the girls danced to a pop number in casual outfits. After this segment, the contestants had to show poise, confidence and grace in the evening gown walk. The emcees Elizabeth Nguyen and Van Nguyen chatted with the participants in a very jovial fashion. After the top 8 girls were announced, they were judged on how well they could modulate their voice by confidently responding to an onstage interview. The questions ranged from the "Who is the most influential person in your life?" to "The hardest thing about being an Asian American." Lillian Un responded to her question on Asian Americans being stereotyped as soft spoken by saying, "As a symbol of our cultural upbringing, it is indeed a true stereotype because that is how we have been brought up".
Asked, "What would you do with your title to reach Asians?" Shimoni dazzled the judges with her thoughtful and confident answere, "We as Asian minorities have already achieved significant economic achievements in this country but we are clearly underrepresented in the political process. My title will give the opportunity to express the need to engage in the political process to have our voice heard in our nation's decisions."
As the contestants had to change outfits and prepare for the next challenging round of competition, local cultural dance groups provided entertainment. Prior to the intermission, the ladies were brought back to display their personality and portray it creatively on stage. The creative outfits included the portrayal of a college junkie holding a Starbucks cup to a sleep-deprived student in her PJ's! The committee should be applauded for adding adding this segment to the contest, even though the contestants were not judged for this round.
After the break, the top five contestants, Priscillia Hioe (Indonesian heritage), Shemoni Sheth (Indian heritage), Lillian Un (Chinese heritage), Julia Bunch (Japanese heritage) and Stephanie Loo (Malaysian heritage) were announced. The next round, the talent segment, was judged according to the difficulty and uniqueness of the talent. The performances ranged from a cha cha dance to a traditional Balinese dance, as well as a rendition of a Western classical piece on the flute. Stephanie Loo displayed her talent in both piano and karate through an interesting skit. However, Shemoni Sheth's classical fusion piece awed the audience as she spun and danced on top of a small plate. This ultimately led her to winning the Miss Talent award.
As the judges tallied up the scores, all of the participants were asked to line up on stage. Priscilla Hioe was awarded Miss Photogenic, Diane Kim was announced Miss Congeniality, Lillian Yun was announced 2nd Honorary Scholar, Julia Bunch was crowned Miss Community Service as well as 1st Honorary Scholar. Which meant that Shemoni Sheth was the new titleholder of this year's crown! A senior in Industrial and Systems Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology, she is also a trained classical dancer. She has interned at GE, Air2Web, CipherTrust, and will be at General Mills this summer. She plans to get an MBA and also pursue her passion for dance as an instructor at Kruti Dance Academy.
~ Archith Seshadri
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