Sunday, Oct. 12, 2014 | 2 a.m.
Annie Chang Evans moved to Las Vegas four years ago, and one of the first things the former pageant queen noticed was there was no pageant geared toward the Asian community in Las Vegas.
So she created one. Miss Asian Las Vegas crowned its first winner in 2013 and recently held its second annual pageant at the Palazzo with twice as many competitors as the first year. This year the contest expanded to include a wider age range, with Teen, Miss, Ms. and Mrs. Asian Las Vegas categories. The contestants are judged in seven categories including a speech or “platform” they give on a topic of their choice, ethnic costume and an interview.
Chang Evans, a wealth manager, believes pageants helped make her into the successful business woman she is today, and she wanted to provide that experience for the Las Vegas Asian community. She thinks many women have the wrong idea about the competitions.
Jamie Stephenson, this year’s winner for Ms. Asian Las Vegas, was one of those women. She had recently launched her business, The Juice Standard, when a friend approached her with the idea of participating in the pageant. Initially, she scoffed. Later, she realized there was more to the pageant experience than she thought.
Why did you want to start a pageant for the Asian community in Las Vegas?
Chang Evans: It was important to me because I have a 2 and a 4 year-old, and I knew I was going to be here for a very long time. I saw that there was a lack of Asian community events, and a way for Asian Americans to get together and embrace their culture. I’ve seen this done before, and it flourishes in a lot of metropolitan cities like L.A., San Francisco and Chicago.
I expanded the divisions this year because I don’t want to just produce a pageant for a certain age range. I think if you really want to help the community, you should try and help as many people as possible. Regardless of your age, you should have chance to go outside the box and do something different.
What are your goals for the pageant?
Chang Evans: This is a big goal, but I’d love for us to be televised. I would like the girls to really have a big platform. I want the people who come out of the pageant, winners and those who don’t win, to be able to promote themselves in whatever they want to do, and they’ll know they have something to back them up. This pageant can promote you to become who you want to become regardless of whether you win or not.
What was your pageant experience like?
Chang Evans: I did three. It was not something that I ever imagined I would do, until somebody came up to me and said: :Hey try something new. This is different. This is going to change your life.:
I had just moved from Maryland to San Francisco and I didn’t have a lot of friends, and I just wanted to try something new. So I did it, and it was the best decision of my life. There are so many people I’ve been introduced to who literally helped me become the career person I am. I’m in finance now, I own my own wealth management company, and a lot of it had to do with the pageant because of all the people who are involved.
What pageants and people inspired your production?
Chang Evans: Rose Chung does Miss Asian Global, that’s the pageant that I came out of. She’s got more than 100 people who volunteer every year, and the money goes to a nonprofit organization and back into the community. She picks different communities to get involved in. That’s what I want to do, too. I look at her and she’s kind of like my mentor. She’s had this pageant for 27 years, and all these people come out of it have really made themselves a better person because of it. I hope I can do that and measure up to what she’s done.
Jamie, what was your biggest challenge to competing?
Stephenson: Getting over myself. All that negative self talk: Who the heck do you think you really are? What are my friends going to think? How does this really translate to my business? I said I wanted this to be about promoting my business and promoting juicing. It wasn’t until I was three-quarters of the way through the process when I said: ‘If I actually go for this and actually try to win, I think I can at least have enough confidence to put 100 percent effort. Then if I win, I get to promote my brand for a whole year.’
Once I increased the angle of my lens, I could see this was so much bigger than what I thought of a as a silly beauty pageant. It’s become a network of humans who really care about promoting their values, their beliefs, their community and their culture. It was wonderful.
What kind of community work would you like to do?
Stephenson: I’m a gardener. I’ve always said I’d like to have one foot in a Christian Louboutin and one in a Keen shoe. We squeeze juices and we have pulp left over that is a nitrogen fixing component for compost materials. There is a school, the Walter Bracken STEAM Academy, and they are growing a garden at the school. … They are taking our juice pulp and turning it into compost and growing foods out of it. I want to use my position to promote awareness about food and what food really is. How it’s grown. Where it comes from. How far it has to travel. What quality food is. How it feeds your body. Then I get to talk about plants and bees, and all of the parts of the ecosystem we need in order to lead healthy lives.
What was your ethnic costume?
Stephenson: I’m tough in many ways, and yet feminine in many other ways. I chose to wear a beautiful silk kimono, saffron in color with lavender, which reminds me of the sunset in the desert valley. It’s tied into desert life, but I’m also Japanese and a woman so I wore a kimono. There was this kind of sexy, flashy samurai outfit with a sword that I wore underneath the kimono. So, I took off the kimono and had this other outfit and the sword … I made it as fun as a I possibly could.