May 31, 2009Erika Tanaka, the young Japanese and Vietnamese American woman who won the second annual Miss Asian American Colorado Leadership Program's Finale Show last night. The tiara was there, along with the glitz and glamor. But there was no swimsuit competition, and no one mentioned "world peace." This is no ordinary beauty pageant. The program is all about leadership and community service -- the inner beauty that the 17 contestants all displayed on the stage (yes, it's a cliche, but these woman all have inner beauty, in spades). Erin and I were impressed with all of the contestants when they shared their community service projects, and also impressed with many of their talent segments. Our favorites included what might be expected performances for this kind of event: Abhinetri Ramaswani's singing on a lovely, hypnotic Indian classical song, accompanied by a musician on tablas; Lana Nguyen's performance of a melancholy Vietnamese folksong. But we also enjoyed the performances that showed the "American" side of these Asian American women: Giane Morris' self-penned rock song (complete with a full electric band backing her) about the death of her brother; several spoken word performances including Nguyen Nguyen's passionate poem about her identity, "Beautiful Things"; and several hip-hop dance routines, including a very cool, intricately choreographed duet by Laila Nguyen. There were several non-traditional talents displayed in an entertaining way, including cooking pad Thai, making lotus flowers out of colored napkins, and most notably, a demonstration of the sport of curling (really).