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Monday, March 10, 2014
Miss Hawaiis: Where are they now?
By Katie Young
Miss Hawaiis past and present take to the stage Saturday to raise scholarship funds.
The sound of families playing in Kakaako Park is barely audible over the gregarious chatter of 15 Miss Hawaiis gathered by the entrance of the parking lot.
I am welcomed into their little huddle and listen quietly as they discuss matters of work and play. They are relaxed and friendly but, when asked, quickly organize into the traditional basic foot position, standing straight and sophisticated all of them experts on posing for photos.
They are all true beauties, but dont call them beauty queens because these ladies stand for much more than a pretty face and title.
Even decades after being a Miss Hawaii, they are noticed in the supermarkets and shopping malls, approached by strangers who ask, Werent you Miss Hawaii?
Beyond the names, however, are more than 50 women who have become teachers, entertainers, doctors, lawyers, businesswomen, wives and mothers since the start of the pageant in 1947.
Though separated by decades, the sisterhood of the Miss Hawaii Scholarship Pageant remains a legacy, and the memories for the select women who have held the title carry lasting life lessons in generosity, determination and the importance of serving community.
In the interest of keeping the sisterhood of women together, of sharing their talents and of helping to build scholarship opportunities for future Miss Hawaiis, Billie Takaki, Miss Hawaii 2000, enlisted the help of Cathy Foy-Mahi, Miss Hawaii 1974, to create an event to generate additional funds for the scholarship pageant.
The result is a night of entertainment, with former Miss Hawaiis taking you on a journey across the world, similar to the travels that Miss Hawaii embarks on each year.
Nineteen former Miss Hawaiis will be participating in the second annual Yun Tau Zane Scholarship Fundraiser Beyond the Sea, produced by Miss Hawaii pageant producer Ray Abregano, at 5:30 p.m. Saturday at the Hilton Hawaiian Village Tapa Ballroom. (Tickets cost $50, call 947-7575 or 256-7392.)
Last year, the inaugural event raised close to $16,000 money which was distributed to this years Miss Hawaii and the four runners-up.
There are many Miss Hawaiis who want to give back, but couldnt find the right venue to do it, says Takaki. Many of them are or were professional entertainers, and its a way to share their talents in one venue.
Foy-Mahi agrees that it was the right thing to do to gather these Miss Hawaiis in an event such as this.
It just warms my heart to see the younger Miss Hawaiis carrying the torch, she says. Eventually, wed like to raise enough funds so everyone who competes in Miss Hawaii would get scholarship money.
The funds are administered through the Hawaii Community Foundation, and the event itself is named for 1948 Miss Hawaii, the late Yun Tau Zane Chee, who was the first Miss Hawaii to compete in the Miss America pageant.
Even if they couldnt participate, many Miss Hawaiis offered donations or support of some kind, says Takaki, who notes that the culminating moment at last years event was the performance by hula legend Beverly Noa, which brought the room to a standing ovation.
Debbie Nakanelua Richards, Miss Hawaii 1984, notes shes never been around a more fun, positive group of women. There are moments of glamour and sophistication, she says. But its also a group that talks about things theyd like to change and how they can make a difference.
They also reminisce about their experiences as Miss Hawaii and share where their lives have taken them. MidWeek got in on the gab fest and shares with you 25 stories of where our Miss Hawaiis are today.BJ (Johnston) Feldman, Miss Hawaii 1949
At 17, Roosevelt High School senior BJ Johnston didnt have much world experience. But at the insistence of a school counselor, she enrolled in the Miss Hawaii Scholarship Pageant. She had to borrow a swimsuit, heels and a dress for the pageant night because the local girl was used to running around in shorts and slippers.
She traveled to Atlantic City to compete in Miss America without a chaperone. It was her first time away from Hawaii. She was greeted, when she arrived by train, by the owner of the Dennis Hotel and a contingent of 60 G.I.s who were stationed nearby. They strummed ukuleles and presented her with lei, making her feel closer to home.
Johnston says it was a wonderful experience too young, and hopes she made a good impression for the state of Hawaii.
After Atlantic City, Johnston became part of a promotional team for United Airlines to help promote its new flights to Hawaii. She also toured the country promoting Duke Kahanamokus line of aloha shirts before deciding to use her scholarship money to attend modeling school in San Francisco.
When she returned to the Islands, she joined Hawaiian Airlines and spent 42 years working for the company in sales, promotion and the ticket offices. She retired recently to take care of her ailing mother and also to be available to spend time with her four children, 10 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. She is also active at Holy Trinity Church, and facilitates the RCIA group for people interested in becoming Catholic.
Johnston hopes that Miss Hawaii will go on forever. Im really glad this opportunity still exists for young women, she says. It gave me more confidence and really opened a lot of doors.Dell-Finn (Poaha) Lüchinger, Miss Hawaii 1950
Spending the day with U.S. President Harry Truman and First Lady Bess was just one of many extraordinary experiences for Lüchinger. She played the song White Christmas on the piano, sang Hawaiian songs while drumming on an umeke, and taught the first lady how to dance the hula.
From the very day I became Miss Hawaii it changed my life, says Lüchinger. When I was little I used to want to do everything. My mom told me, Dont plan on the small things, God might give you something bigger.
And Mom was right. Being Miss Hawaii brought Lüchinger many opportunities. She obtained a degree in music and drama from Hamline University in Minnesota while she was traveling as part of a promotional team for Northwest Airlines.
She traveled all over the world performing, singing and dancing at USO shows. She was on the Ben Blue show in Las Vegas and was discovered by Walter Winchell at the Silver Slipper. One of her crowning achievements was singing at the Copacabana in New York in front of Frank Sinatra and other music legends. Lüchinger has also performed in Australia, Los Angeles and Japan.
She says being Miss Hawaii also brought her to her husband, Walter, a Swiss officer she met while in Tokyo. With him she had three children, and then came home to Hawaii 17 years ago to care for her father. Shes now a manufacturers representative for Haku Sales Company a company she runs with her husband representing 20 companies in hardware and lighting and selling to major retailers in Hawaii.
Showing no signs of slowing down, Lüchinger released a CD two years ago titled Heart to Heart, with a variety of Hawaiian, Japanese, Korean, Spanish and Filipino songs.
Lüchinger feels an extremely close connection to the children of Hawaii and has always tried to assert the importance of a good education, something the Miss Hawaii Scholarship Pageant afforded her.Claire (Heen) Cameron, Miss Hawaii 1951
Claire Cameron never told her children she had been Miss Hawaii until one day her son came home saying, Mom! Someone told me you were a Miss Hawaii! Cameron was busy teaching her two children to surf she was a wife and a career woman, so she just never got around to telling her kids about that time in her life.
Cameron became Miss Hawaii while she was a senior at Punahou School, before Hawaii became a state. Her family wanted her to enter the pageant, hoping that she might be one of the three contestants who got to travel to Washington, D.C., as one of the pageant prizes. After all, her dad said, she could at least win second runner-up.
Cameron did better than that, and upon winning the title, she got to board an airplane for the first time and travel to the Mainland to help promote the film Go For Broke. Before that, Id only been to the beach and back! laughs Cameron.
After Miss America, Cameron attended Berkeley Business School in New York before coming home to do modeling and work at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel. Following that, she traveled for Kamehameha Garment Company doing promotions.
Cameron then worked for RCA Communications for 10 years before retiring in 1983. She now spends time with her grandchildren, children and her husband of 45 years, Reginald.
Being Miss Hawaii made me appreciate Hawaii more and how lucky I am to live here and to be from here, she says. It was a learning experience for me, and Im still learning. Im not pau yet.
Beverly Noa, Miss Hawaii 1952
Beverly Noa laughs that she is now taking old lady hula classes from Tony Conjugacion. But dancing is no joke for Noa, who was trained in hula by such legends of the art as Louise and Nona Beamer, Iolani Luahine and Maiki Aiu. Dancing keeps Noa young, but only on rare occasions can you catch the renowned dancer in a public performance.
Noa was a regular hula dancer at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel for years following her reign as Miss Hawaii. She also traveled and did promotions for Kamehameha Garment Company, and worked as a model and promoter for Shaheen.
Most recently, she worked for 14 years as the manager of Chanel in Hawaii, retiring just last year.
Noa remembers her year as Miss Hawaii as one filled with fun and excitement.
I was approached to run for Miss Hawaii by one of the sponsors, she says. I never dreamed I would win Miss Hawaii. But she did and even placed in the top 10 at Miss America.
This opportunity really develops and broadens the scope of life for so many women, says Noa. It puts them in a position to accomplish so many things, and so many of our girls have done so well and continue to contribute to the community.
Noas greatest accomplishment in life, she says, are her two children. Her son Fred is a broker in commercial real estate, while son Edward is a chef at the Laniakea Cafe. Noa also has two grandchildren.Georgietta K. (Parker) Caroll, Miss Hawaii 1958
Georgietta Caroll learned that when youre Miss Hawaii, your time is not your own. But Caroll still managed to attend the Stenographic Institute of Hawaii to get a degree as an executive secretary during her reign.
Before her trip to Atlantic City and Miss America, she also traveled to 22 states to promote Hawaiis garment manufacturing industry, which was growing quickly at the time.
I felt like it was part of my job to introduce Hawaii to the world, says Caroll. A lot of people on the Mainland still didnt know about Hawaii. People would ask me how I got there, thinking I might have arrived by canoe.
The most difficult thing for Caroll to get used to was all the media that surrounded her at Miss America and the stories that they fabricated. Her mother called frantically after reports had reached home that Caroll had become engaged to her pageant escort, a Broadway producer. Caroll had to assure her mother the reports were false as was an accusation that she was drinking alcohol. (Caroll was holding a glass for her chaperone when she excused herself to go to the restroom.)
After her year as Miss Hawaii, Caroll went on to work for 10 years at the Hilton Hawaiian Village as an executive secretary in various departments and also worked at the Pagoda Hotel as a sales manager. Over the years shes also worked for the United Public Workers, as catering sales manager at Elegant Catering, and is currently the volunteer coordinator at Hawaii Foodbank Inc.
Her greatest accomplishment in life, she says, is her daughter and best friend, Brande.
What she remembers about her experience as Miss Hawaii is that it made her more aware of her inner self. The crown is really what you make of it, she says.Patricia Lei (Anderson) Murray, Miss Hawaii 1962
It was at her first appearance, the famous Parade of States at the Miss America pageant, that Patricia Lei Murray realized she had a long week ahead of her. During the parade, where each state rides down the street in a convertible car, it started to rain. All the other contestants had fancy sashes with their states name embroidered on pretty satin. Murray had a long ribbon, hand-painted with the words Miss Hawaii.
When it started raining, I watched as my whole identity was washed and drained down the front of my dress, remembers Murray. But after the parade my chaperone (former Miss Hawaii Gordean Leilehua Lee) made me hot chocolate and convinced me that It will get better.
Being Miss Hawaii did get better. At Miss America, Murray met Peggy Wass, then Miss New Hampshire, with whom she is still great friends today. And the experience of representing her state became one that opened doors to her.
It improved my ability to speak and teach confidently, and inspired my pride in being Hawaiian and representing my culture and all that is special about Hawaii, she says.
Murray laughs that she now has silver hair and is a bit fluffier, but is very happy with the road her life has taken.
In 2004, Murray will celebrate her 50th wedding anniversary with husband Harry. After being Miss Hawaii, she spent more than 20 years singing and dancing with people like Ed Kenny, Joe Recca and Palani Vaughn, while simultaneously raising her five children.
She even traveled to Radio City Music Hall for a two-week stint singing and performing with the Rockettes.
Murray spent 11 years as a time-management consultant for Franklin Covey, was one of the original hui members of Native Books & Beautiful Things, and was a board member for the Domestic Violence Clearing-house.
This Christmas, Murray will release a book on quilting, a passion shes held for over 20 years, titled Quilt Inspirations: A Journal of Life, a collection of stories about quilts, their quilters and how important the art is to our lives.Marlene (Kalahiki) Schimmelfennig, Miss Hawaii 1972
Bearing the title of Miss Hawaii means different things to different people. For Marlene Schimmelfennig, her crown took on a whole new identity one day while she was visiting a rest home on the island of Kauai.
I was wearing a gown and my crown and I was carrying the scepter, says Schimmelfenning. I walked over to this woman and touched her shoulder. She turned to look at me and said, Ohhhhhh the angel has come! She thought I was an angel who was coming to take her to heaven. She was so cute.
Being Miss Hawaii for Schimmelfennig gave her an opportunity to change her outlook on life. I had no goals, no vision for myself before Miss Hawaii, she says. But it gave me hope and freedom to travel and see the world.
From 1972 to 1982 Schimmelfennig worked for Hawaiian Airlines. She traveled as an ambassador of aloha and danced all over the world. She also served as a sales representative and conventions manager for the company.
Schimmelfennig took a break from work to get married and raise her three children on Kauai. Both Hurricane Iwa and Hurricane Iniki destroyed her familys property on the island and she was forced to rebuild her home twice.
Now Schimmelfennig can also admit that there was a point in her life where she lost her way and fell on hard times. I came to a point where I thought I was invincible, she says. Schimmelfennig went through a period of drug addiction and alcoholism and spent three years in jail because of a car accident she caused while under the influence.
She fought her way clean through various treatment programs and has had to make many amends. Shes been sober for four-and-a-half years now. She speaks to groups and teens and has been part of the effort to bring awareness to Hawaiis ice epidemic.
Ive changed my life around now, says Schimmelfennig, who works for Windward Boats selling kayaks. I feel inspired today to be an inspiration for other women. Its about doing the right thing even when nobodys looking.Cathy (Foy) Mahi, Miss Hawaii 1974
For Cathy Foy-Mahi the experience of running for Miss Hawaii gave her an opportunity to pursue what she enjoyed most: performing.
It was a stepping stone in that regard for Foy, who went on to earn a degree in music education from the University of Hawaii and then spent seven years in New York performing in several off-Broadway productions.
Shes won two Pookela awards for her work in local theatre and continues to teach singing and stage performance to men, women and children in private lessons.
Her first recording, Eternally, a collection of love songs she recorded in London with the London Philharmonic Orchestra, was released in 1985 and again in 2001. Her second CD, due out in early 2004, is another collection of love songs.
Currently, Foy, who is married to Royal Hawaiian Band director Aaron Mahi, performs aboard the Norwegian Star cruise line, traveling between the Hawaiian islands on a weekly basis.
Foy is also planning a repeat performance in the production of Kiss Me Kate in February 2004 with the Army Community Theatre.
Foy says that what shes most proud of, however, is being remembered as someone who accomplished good things for the community.
As chairperson for the Honolulu Symphony Heart and Opera balls, Foy has helped to raise well over $1 million for various organizations.
She also continues to be involved in continuing the tradition of the Miss Hawaii pageant. When I was Miss Hawaii, we were in danger of losing our sponsors, says Foy. I approached Hawaiian Airlines and from 1976 they became a sponsor. It helped to make sure the legacy continued.
It is a legacy that she says afforded her great opportunities to travel, continue her education, her passion for singing and to develop a sisterhood with others who have traveled down the path of Miss Hawaii.Elizabeth (Lindsey) Buyers, Miss Hawaii 1978
It almost feels like it was someone elses life, says Elizabeth Buyers of her time as Miss Hawaii. But it changed my life dramatically.
Born in Kahuku and raised in Laie before she became Miss Hawaii, Buyers had never previously ventured out of state. Suddenly she found herself constantly on a plane. But her travels gave her insights into humanity and the fundamental needs and desires of different people, which she found to be quite similar.
Following her year as Miss Hawaii, Buyers spent 17 years in California. She studied at the Strasberg Institute, but wasnt terribly interested in acting at the time. Her passion lay in filmmaking and telling peoples stories.
Buyers also obtained a bachelors degree in fine arts and went on to land roles in both television and film, including her role as Mai, a school teacher on the show China Beach.
Buyers then came home to work on The Birds of Paradise with producer Steven Bochco, and more recently worked with Mark Wahlberg and Chow Yun-Fat in the movie The Corrupter in 1999.
In 1995 Buyers went back to school to obtain her doctoral degree in anthropology, and also created the documentary film Then There Were None, which has received national and international acclaim, including the Chris Award, CINE Eagle Award, and was named best documentary at the Toronto International Film Festival.
Married to Doc Buyers, Elizabeth transitioned from filmmaking to business two years ago and is now president and CEO of D. Buyers Enterprises. She still maintains her production company, LLB Productions, and is working on a book documenting her ancestral legacy.
Buyers father always told her that looks will fade. You make the best of what you have, says Buyers, who laughs that during the pageant, her evening gown didnt fit at all. Theres not a day that goes by that I dont remember where I came from. Things happen in our lives to spur us on and I thank goodness for the opportunity to be Miss Hawaii.Debbie (Nakanelua) Richards, Miss Hawaii 1984
When asked what her greatest life accomplishment is, the other end of the phone line falls silent. People would pay to hear this silence, laughs Debbie Nakanelua-Richards, who is typically gregarious.
Not that Richards is lacking in achievement by any means, but shes thoughtful about what shes learned since her year as Miss Hawaii.
The whole process was a lesson for me, says Richards. A lesson about commitment, discipline, integrity and how all your actions have reactions. So many doors opened for me and Ive sat in the presence of so many inspiring people all because of that one moment in June 1984.
Richards, who attended Chaminade University after she finished her Miss Hawaii term, has worked for Hawaiian Airlines for the past 25 years. She started as part of their promotional team, worked in the ticket office and in the sales department. Her role kept growing and growing. She is currently senior manager of government and community relations.
At the same time, Richards was dancing at the Halekulani Hotel on Sundays and is currently in her 15th year entertaining there. Shes been dancing professionally since the age of 15 (she started dancing at age 6, studying with kumu hula Maiki Aiu.) and has performed in almost every showroom in Waikiki.
Richards says the experience of being Miss Hawaii helped her to find her voice on her own opinions, and is still amazed at the eagerness of people to learn about Hawaii.
You mention Hawaii and its like magic, says Richards. The sea parts and people start following you around.
The photographers really loved Richards when she traveled to the Miss America pageant and she was caught in several fun-loving poses during her time there, including a photo that was taken during the Parade of States. Richards was participating in a parade tradition where the audience yells Show us your shoes! (started when one contestant was wearing shoes with a clear heel that housed a goldfish) and she did, just to have a man try to give her dollar bills in her shoe, while he was holding a beer. And click! Caught on camera.Jeanne (Miyamoto) Oliveira, Miss Hawaii 1985
Its Debbie Nakaneluas fault, jokes Jeanne Oliveira, that I ran for Miss Hawaii.
The two were hula sisters and Nakanelua encouraged Oliveira to run. I literally waited until an hour before the application deadline, remembers Oliveira. But I wanted to run because my intent was to better myself and finish my masters degree.
When Oliveira won, she says it was very meaningful to have her hula sister pass on the crown. After her year as Miss Hawaii, Oliveira went back to the University of Portland to finish her masters degree in education and worked here in Hawaii for the state in various special education programs for 10 years.
In between all this, says Oliveira, she had three children, one right after another, and stayed home after her third child for a little over a year.
When she returned to work it was as a kindergarten teacher for Central Union for six years. Today she is a third-grade teacher at Palolo Elementary School.
Before we spoke, Oliveira reminisced over her photo album from her days as Miss Hawaii. Oliveira tells me an adage her kumu Maiki Aiu always taught: Kulia I ka nuu me ka haahaa, which means to strive to the highest with humility.
Nothing has really changed about me, she says. I still follow that creed, but it is by the journey itself I have changed and grown.
The Miss Hawaii journey took her to Japan where she was able to meet, for the first time, her Miyamoto side of the family. Others she met along the way also touched her heart, including a little boy who used to take pictures of her. There was a little boy named Jeremy Richard, says Oliveira. He was 6 or 7 at the time. I kept all the pictures he gave me. I often wonder where he is today.
Cheryl Bartlett, Miss Hawaii 1986
The kangaroo was cute, but she had to watch out for that emu. Cheryl Bartlett sent bird seed flying everywhere when a hungry emu decided to crash the party and shove his big beak into her outstretched hand on a trip to Australia during her reign.
I just laughed and laughed, I thought it was so funny, says Bartlett. It was the work she did with the Hawaiian Airlines promotions team that she values the most from her year as Miss Hawaii. At that point I had only been in Hawaii three years, and they taught me a lot about Hawaii and the culture.
After Miss Hawaii, Bartlett moved to Washington, D.C., to do work for Sen. Daniel Inouye for over a year. She then came home and worked as a training administrator for Hilton Hawaiian Village for two years.
I really wanted to get back to singing, says Bartlett. So Ive been teaching voice and singing lessons for the past 13 years and performing off and on in local venues.
Bartlett has done work for Honolulu Theatre for Youth and appeared in several other local stage productions, including Kismet at Diamond Head Theatre. She currently sings at Roys Restaurant on Friday nights, performs with Latin band Espiritu Libre, and is a dancer for the Brazilian dance group Samba Axé. She is also putting together a CD of her original songs music inspired by her years of traveling produced with Audy Kimura and Herb Mahelona, that is due out within a year.
Not only that, but Bartlett also decided to go back to school for her graduate degree in speech pathology at the University of Hawaii to be able to enhance her work as a voice teacher. My goal is to have a business where I can teach voice and also treat patients who have voice disorders, she says.
Through her experiences as Miss Hawaii, Bartlett says she learned awareness, organization and has became more goal-oriented. She also learned to tailor herself and tame her naturally untamable hair.
But more than that, I realized when I walked out the door, I was representing something much larger than myself.Desiree Moana Cruz, Miss Hawaii 1988
Who you supposed to be? Miss Hawaii?! said a tita of a girl to Desiree Cruz when she came for an appearance at her alma mater Kailua High School. That day she was dressed in a beautiful, full-length yellow Mamo muumuu. I was Miss Hawaii, but I used to be that tita girl, laughs Cruz, who is the sister of Hawaiian musicians Ernie Jr., John and Guy.
Becoming Miss Hawaii was bittersweet for Cruz, however. Her best friend and classmate, Lee Ann Kauhane, was murdered by her boyfriend just one month before the pageant. Cruz would often go to her friends grave to place lei she received at various appearances and think of Lee Ann. I keep her picture with all my Miss Hawaii memorabilia because I wanted her to be in those pictures with me, she says.
Cruz feels she has come a long way from her beginnings. Im proud of making it to the top 10 in Miss America, she says. I grew up in Palolo housing. To stand on that stage, it was almost like looking back into the valley. Thats why I say to young women, Dream big. The world is available to you if thats what you want.
What Cruz chose after her year was to attend school at UH-Hilo. After two years she left to marry her husband, James OConner, who had just happened to read in Don Chapmans column (now MidWeek editor, and who served as a Miss Hawaii judge the year Cruz won) that the former Miss Hawaii was moving to Hilo. OConner had his eye out for Cruz and waited for her to pass by every day in the halls. The couple have two children and enjoy their home overlooking Hilo Bay.
Ive had a very exciting life with lots of traveling, says Cruz. Miss Hawaii capped that for me, and I really wanted a quieter life.
Cruz has also run Desiree Models and Talent for the past 10 years. (She got her experience working with Gipsy Norton as a model and dancer for eight years prior to becoming Miss Hawaii.)
In addition, Cruz sings with a jazz trio at various hotels and resorts on the Kohala Coast. She also went back to school in the area of Hawaiian studies a year ago.
Her greatest joy is working with young women, helping them to make better choices through personal development classes. Last year she also developed a program with Miss Hawaii 1993, Kanoe (Aberegg) Naone, called Pa Lehua Project, which teaches personal and professional development in seminars to Hawaiian students.Ligaya Stice, Miss Hawaii 1989
Miss Hawaiis are human, too. Ligaya Stice says she was famous for not being the neatest of eaters. It was demonstrated at the Hoku awards when she ended up scooping a big ball of rice onto her lap, not her plate. She also recalls a trip to Finland with former Governor Ariyoshi and the first lady where Stice fumbled her salad with her slippery silver chopsticks in front of the Korean ambassador.
Today, she is finishing up her residency in anesthesiology at New York Presbyterian Hospital Cornell Medical Center and is applying for a fellowship in pediatric anesthesia for one more year of specialty training.
Following her year as Miss Hawaii, Stice immediately moved to Boston to attend medical school. The combined M.D./Ph.D. program kept her in school until 2000, when she graduated with her medical degree and a Ph.D. in biochemistry.
I am looking forward to coming home soon, says Stice, who graduated from the University of Hawaii as a chemistry major and was also a former UH Rainbow dancer. Ive been away almost 13 years, and I miss what living in Hawaii has to offer.
With her dedication to medicine, its hard to believe that at one point Stice was torn between continuing her education or focusing on a career in entertainment.
The Miss Hawaii pageant afforded her the best of both worlds a chance to perform and money to continue her education.
It also helps you figure out not just what your goals are, but why those are your goals, she says. It was an important part of growing up.
Even if she hadnt won, says Stice, she still would have gained more than she could have imagined from the experience. Women have to realize its a stepping stone and not the end to something else.Cheryl Toma-Sanders, Miss Hawaii 1990
The day after Cheryl Toma-Sanders ended her year as Miss Hawaii, she got married. My husband, Matt, waited seven years to marry me, so I did not want him to wait a day longer, says Sanders.
Even though she was a newlywed, Sanders continued working on her masters degree in music education at the University of Hawaii and was a flight attendant for Continental for four years. She then became a piano teacher for Kamehameha Schools for three years in addition to teaching piano privately.
She and Matt had two children (Kiyomi and Ariel) here in Hawaii before they moved to Fort Worth, Texas so Matt could attend seminary school. Texas is where their third child, Keiko, was born.
While in Texas Sanders also found an agent and did work as a actor, musician and model featured in several international print ads and commercials. She also had a role as the wife of an undercover agent in the show Walker Texas Ranger and was in the film Serving Sara with Matthew Perry and Elizabeth Hurley.
Sanders came home and spent a year in Hawaii before jetting off to Scotland where her husband is currently pursuing his PhD in theology.
Sanders finds work wherever she goes and in addition to homeschooling her three daughters, she is a piano accompanist for the St. Andrews Childrens Chorus. While she was in Hawaii this summer, she also taught summer school at Hawaii Baptist Academy and directed a summer musical at Kalihi Union Church.
Sanders got a lot of practice balancing her life while she was Miss Hawaii. There was always so much to do, she says. I felt like I finally got used to it and then the year was over.
Her greatest memories from the year were working with the Honolulu Police Department and juvenile runaways and at-risk children as well as representing National Youth Crisis Hotline, sharing her story with others in hopes that it would encourage them to make better of their lives.
Sanders is certain those experiences as Miss Hawaii have changed her as well.
They prepared me for life, she says.Lani (Stone) Kaaa, Miss Hawaii 1991
Its hard to dance with a crown on your head, Lani Kaaa discovered not long after being crowned Miss Hawaii. At her first public appearance she was dancing the Hawaiian Wedding Song for a crowd of Japanese visitors, with Danny Kaleikini singing on the microphone. Kaaa bent forward to do a hula move and her crown bounced off and rolled on the floor.
Everyone freaked out, Kaaa remembers.
Then there was the time I had an appearance in Ireland and my luggage got lost. Thank goodness, because they wanted me to do a photo shoot in a bikini and grass skirt, holding a mai tai. Not too bad, except it was November and they wanted to do it on a frozen water pond. Kaaa just held the mai tai wearing her regular clothes instead.
Not bad for entering the Miss Hawaii pageant on a dare from her best friend. Kaaa was 27 when she ended her reign, after taking over the title when Carolyn Sapp became Miss America.
Her platform at the time she ran was volunteerism, and Kaaa takes great pride in being able to continue to help other young women in the same kinds of areas people helped her when she ran for the scholarship pageant.
Kaaa has been the executive director of the Miss Oahu preliminary pageant for five years as well as the chairperson of Hawaiis Junior Miss for two years. In addition, she currently works for the Hawaii Convention Center in marketing for off-shore conventions. Previously, she worked for the Hawaii Visitors Bureau.
Immediately following her term as Miss Hawaii, Kaaa worked for City Councilmember Mufi Hannemann as a legislative aide, and spent six years as a committee clerk in the Senate for Brian Taniguchi.
Kaaas husband, Steven, is a private banker, and she has two children, Pono and Josiah.
Im happy that Im able to keep a good balance between my many activities, says Kaaa.
The hardest thing about being Miss Hawaii, she says, was putting on makeup and curling her hair three times a day for appearances. Now, Kaaa teaches makeup classes and just retired from modeling for ADR this year.
Taking her friend up on that dare has led Kaaa down a path in life she never dreamed of.
The people Ive met have really made a difference, she says. Being Miss Hawaii has gotten me in a lot of doors. Ive become more patient and learned that flexibility is a really important thing in life.Courtney Glaza, Miss Hawaii 1994
Just before Courtney Glaza was scheduled to call MidWeek for her interview, there was a bomb scare in the building she works at in downtown Los Angeles. The package was removed and Glaza was able to call on time after all.
This scare was real, but Glaza is used to hearing a barrage of car crashes, gun fights and loud explosions during her typical day as an attorney, as movies are always being filmed on the street below.
Her building has appeared in Heat with Val Kilmer, and all the elevator scenes in Oceans 11 were filmed in her buildings elevators. Glaza has gotten used to the hoopla, however, and simply peers out her window during a commotion to make sure its a production crew and not the real thing.
Following her reign as Miss Hawaii, Glaza attended law school at Regent University in Virginia. She moved to Los Angeles in 1999, and practiced civil litigation and entertainment law for a while before joining her current firm of Parker Stanbury LLP to focus on family law and consumer rights.
Shes never far from home, and her office is decorated with reminders of Hawaii, including tropical prints and everything framed in koa wood. Id love to move home, but Ill probably be here for at least a few years because of the career opportunities, says Glaza, who laughs that it has become normal to see Jack Nicholson, Arnold Schwarzenegger or Tom Cruise walking down the street.
Glaza almost gave up her opportunity to run for Miss Hawaii when she got into law school just one week before the Miss Hawaii pageant. Luckily, the school was willing to defer her acceptance for a year.
Glaza is happy she waited.
I traveled all over the world and there were so many doors that opened up to me, she says. When youre in the public eye, it also forces you to focus on others. I hope that I represented the people of Hawaii in a way they can be proud of me.
When Glaza isnt working 12-hour days, she spends time skydiving, attending the theatre and going to outdoor concerts.Traci Toguchi, Miss Hawaii 1995
After the first two lines, the applause started. Looking out into the unpredictable audience at Amateur Night at the Apollo in New York, Traci Toguchi says she suddenly felt like the holy spirit had taken over her body and she was a diva.
She had been in New York for a while after she finished her Miss Hawaii reign. Toguchi spent a year touring with the cast of Miss Saigon as the understudy for Gigi, did various work in film and theatre and studied at the Strasberg Institute.
She was about to move to Los Angeles, but before she went, Toguchi just had to know if she could cut it at the famous Amateur Night at the Apollo.
I was hoping to sing and just have them clap and not boo, says Toguchi. I sang And Im Telling You Im Not Going and they just started cheering! Toguchi won that evening and made it to the next round, but decided to move, as planned, to Los Angeles.
There, she was part of a performing Shakespeare group called Will & Co, appeared on the soap opera Passions, did some independent films and continued her singing career.
She also began working on recording a solo album, but was cheated out of thousands of dollars by a fraudulent producer.
Toguchi missed home and came back here to continue recording her album. Titled Feel the Breeze, the CD should be out by November.
Ive written over 300 songs, says Toguchi, who can sing in six languages. I write every day. My CD is mostly adult contemporary and island music songs.
The third time was the charm for Toguchi as far as Miss Hawaii was concerned she won the title after two years of prior competition. Her platform on aging with dignity became even more significant to her when her grandfather passed away just a month after she took the title.
Toguchi dedicated her year to visiting almost 100 senior organizations and clubs and published a handbook for seniors called Aging with Dignity: Social Options for Seniors, which was printed by HMSA and sold out on its first printing.
Being Miss Hawaii was also a humbling experience at times for Toguchi, who didnt have an official Miss Hawaii car and caught TheBus to many of her public appearances and events.
Being Miss Hawaii was equivalent to 20 years of living, she says. It showed me that if I really want something I have to know the reason why I want it. I took what I learned from the pageant and went out and pursued other things.Erika Kauffman, Miss Hawaii 1997
Breaking the crown is sometimes a hazard that comes with the job of being Miss Hawaii.
I was visiting a childrens hospital and was leaning down to give this little girl a hug when my crown fell off and one of the tips broke, says Erika Kauffman. The little girl dove for the broken piece and jumped up, lifted it up on her head and said, Look! Im Miss Hawaii too! Kauffman let the little girl keep the piece of her crown as a souvenir.
Being able to spend a lot of time with the youth of Hawaii was one of the things that Kauffman is especially proud of during her year as Miss Hawaii.
It changed my life so much, she says. It has made me realize to never underestimate the power of a moment, the power of a decision or the power of a person.
Kauffman was only 17 when she became Miss Hawaii. After her year was over, she went to the University of the Nations school for a year in Europe to study in 10 different countries including Switzerland and Serbia.
She then came home and attended Hawaii Pacific University as a communications major. Kauffman was offered national representation by International Creative Management for broadcast journalism, and moved to Los Angeles in 2000 to work doing journalism, hosting for a variety of reality shows as well as working in marketing and production.
Kauffman returned to Hawaii this past March and will be going back to school to finish her degree in just over a week. She will also be starting a new job in the marketing department of Communications Pacific, and sings at the Hanohano Room on Wednesday evenings.
Kauffman has made it her mandate in life to rise to the challenge and seize whatever opportunities come her way. Shes also looking to get involved with a nonprofit group and stay active in the local community.
Ive been so blessed in life with really unexpected events, she says. I think there is no limit to what I can do.Jennifer (Hera) Pimentel, Miss Hawaii 1998
Yall so pretty! he said to Jennifer Pimentel in his Georgian drawl. Ive never been to your country before!
Pimentel, who had been brought to this restaurant by Miss Georgia to try some authentic catfish, had to giggle a little. Then the guy, who was the restaurant owner said, Do yall have potatoes there?
The youngest of seven children from Lanai, Pimentel says she truly valued all the experiences shes been able to have traveling all over the world meeting different people during her time as Miss Hawaii.
It was a great bonus, in addition to the scholarship money she won which helped to put her through school at Hawaii Pacific University in the field of public relations.
Pimentel is currently a student at Chaminade University, working toward her masters degree in education. During the day, she works at August Ahrens Elementary School in Waipahu in the primary school adjustment project, working with kids who have behavioral and adjustment problems in the classroom.
Eventually Id like to teach first or second grade, says Pimentel. This program Im working in now helps me to recognize all the different aspects of a child so I can be an effective teacher.
Pimental, who got married in 2000, also keeps up her artistic side by entertaining at the Hanohano Room on Sundays and Thursdays, singing with the band Stardust. She also has three dogs: Tater Tot, Chewie-Louie and Pudgy.
When she was crowned Miss Hawaii, Pimental admits she didnt really know what she had gotten herself into. But the whirlwind experience gave her an opportunity to become more forward, confident and self-assured.
The hardest thing was being away from my family and finding the realism in all of the facade. But now I have a better sense of my true self.Candes Gentry, Miss Hawaii 1999
I think I was one of the only Miss Hawaiis who didnt know how to dance hula, admits Candes Gentry. But everyone always asks Miss Hawaii to dance, so I learned two songs: Sophisticated Hula and Hanalei Moon. I wore a pearlescent white cellophane skirt and everyone seemed to love it. I used the costume again this past year for Halloween and told everyone I was a dashboard hula girl.
It was a quick-learn for Gentry, as was the experience of competing in a pageant. Her older sister, Corin, had competed in the pageant the year prior, and it gave Candes an opportunity to see what the program was all about. She was a self-proclaimed tomboy, but decided to sign up for a chance at some scholarship money and a chance to sing.
What the experience gave her was something much greater.
It actually gave me a great perspective on life, work, our passions and whats really important, says Gentry.
During her year as Miss Hawaii, Gentry produced a CD and with it raised $7,000 for the National Psoriasis Foundation. She also developed a program called My ABCs of Life which stood for Adversity Builds Character. It was a three-step healing process which Gentry has used in her own life to overcome challenges, and she shared it with others she encountered as Miss Hawaii.
After her reign, Gentry returned to school to pursue her MBA at the University of Hawaii, and will graduate next June. She also continues to indulge in her love of performing and has appeared as a principal character in the local productions of You Somebody and Follies.
Perhaps one of her greatest accomplishments has been her intensive training and competition in triathlons. Last year, she competed in the Xterra triathlon and placed 10th in her age group. Gentry is considered a top age group athlete and just qualified again to compete in the same Xterra competition this October. She trains for almost three hours a day, six days a week.
Im always looking for a new challenge, says Gentry.Billie Takaki, Miss Hawaii 2000
When you hold the title of Miss Hawaii, sometimes people ask you to do embarrassing things.
I felt like one of the Fruit of the Loom fruits, remembers Billie Takaki, of her time at the Miss San Francisco preliminary pageant. I thought I was just going to sing.
Instead, they fitted her with a giant backpack of balloons. Takaki and the 2000 Miss California were required to Vogue with their balloon entourage in tow. The balloons kept popping through the whole number, says Takaki, who became Miss Hawaii after Angela Perez Baraquio won Miss America and first runner-up Liane Mark declined to take the crown.
Even though she didnt get to compete in Atlantic City, Takaki doesnt feel like she missed out on the full Miss Hawaii experience.
I took the crown and ran with it, jokes Takaki, who was officially crowned Miss Hawaii on her birthday. Everybody has their own experience. And I knew it was OK when I went to see Angie give up her Miss America crown and I sat in the audience without an ounce of regret.
It was Takakis childhood dream to sing on the Miss Hawaii stage. She would memorize the choreography and songs of the contestants and perform it at home to anyone who would listen, she says.
Since 2001, Takaki has gone back to school to complete her graduate degree in secondary education at Chaminade University. Shes also continued her work at Bank of Hawaii as a training specialist, but took a seven-month break to try her hand as managing editor for Hawaii Woman Magazine.
Shes also the youngest member of the Miss Hawaii Development Board, is a spokesperson for Groundhog Job Shadow Day and is on the boards of the Angela Perez Baraquio Educational Foundation and Positive Connections Hawaii.
Eventually I see myself going into the education arena, but probably not as a teacher, says Takaki. Id like to work more on developing opportunities for students.
Takaki says she is grateful for the opportunities being Miss Hawaii has afforded her, especially giving her the financial means to continue her education. Equally important to her are the valuable friendships shes made from the pageant.
As for her greatest accomplishment in life, Takaki says, I dont think Ive achieved it yet. Its still out there.Denby Dung, Miss Hawaii 2001
Can we go visit Miss Dung in her castle? asked one of Denby Dungs students to his mother.
He was sure I had this castle, recalls Dung. He thought it was in Chinatown and I had 15 servants. He even knew what each servant was supposed to do: I had one to bring my car, one to wash my hair
Dung recalls the enthusiasm of her students when she became Miss Hawaii. They stopped calling her Miss Dung and only referred to her by her new title.
Dung is still at Trinity Christian School, where shes been for the past four years teaching general music, choir and producing the schools Christmas play. Shes also a clarinet player in the Royal Hawaiian Band, teaches private music lessons and models on the side.
Balancing everything was a trait Dung learned quickly when she became Miss Hawaii because she didnt want to leave her students mid-year to only focus on her pageant title.
It was Denbys sister Dana-Li who entered her in the competition and the two sisters even competed against each other for the crown. The two both won the last preliminary pageants of the year but didnt feel they were competing against each other.
Everyone asked me that, but it was great to have your best friend there with you, says Dung. We really dont have that sibling rivalry thing at all.
The third Dung sister, Darah, is also the current Miss Chinatown.
Little did Denby know when she became Miss Hawaii she and her family were living on borrowed time. During her year, Denbys father traveled on every trip with her, on numerous trips to Japan and other Mainland and inter-island destinations. As soon as her year was done, her father was diagnosed with stage-four pancreatic cancer. He passed away eight months later. He was always there, through everything, says Dung. Its just really special that we could share all that time and those experiences together.
Ive grown so much, she says. Ive been exposed to so many people and ideas. It just opens up your whole world.
But I think the best is yet to come. I want to go back to school, I want to perform, I want to teach and make my family proud. I want to do it all.Kehau Christian, Miss Hawaii 2002
When youre Miss Hawaii, you dont have the option of having a bad day, says Kehau Christian reflecting on her recently relinquished crown.
You learn to be on all the time. You say yes now and figure out how youll fit it in to your schedule later. I learned a lot about time management and how to function on no sleep.
Christian knew that the experience would be what she made it and she says shes actually surprised at all she was able to accomplish in her year as Miss Hawaii.
I traveled, went to school full time, worked and started a school tour where I went to over 100 schools in three months and visited with 65,000 students, says Christian, who was promoting her platform on literacy. On one of her trips, Christian was also invited to speak on literacy at a Mobilizing Americas Youth conference in Washington, D.C.
If its possible, Christian says shes even busier today than she was as Miss Hawaii. She has been teaching classes at Susan Page and flies every week between the Neighbor Islands.
Shell head back to school this fall at Hawaii Pacific University to pursue her degree in public relations and eventually wants to attend graduate school.
Christian is also continuing to work with many of the organizations she was involved with during her reign, including Positive Connections, The American Lung Association, and has been named to the advisory board for Mobilizing Americas Youth.
She is also getting back to dancing again, something she had to put on hold during her busy Miss Hawaii year, and will be doing a five-city tour in Japan in November. Christian previously lived in Japan for three years as a dancer at Tokyo Disney before she came home to run for Miss Hawaii.Kanoe Gibson, Miss Hawaii 2003
Kanoe Gibson has only held the title of Miss Hawaii for under three months. Shes up every morning at 6 currently preparing for the Miss America Pageant at the end of September. She runs, attends meetings and fittings while making local appearances in her role as our current Miss Hawaii.
So far, Gibson says its the best experience shes ever had. Shes already been recognized on the street as she was driving her Miss Hawaii Mercedes. Twice shes seen flashes go off as people try to snap a photo of her while shes driving.
Gibson knows it will be hard to stop eating the Dunkin Donuts, and shell have to stay organized and remember to whom and what shes accountable.
Gibson, who went to Mililani Elementary School but attended high school in Missouri, worked as a flight attendant for Hawaiian Airlines for over three years previous to becoming Miss Hawaii. Shes currently on leave until October.
Gibson says shed like to go back to school after her reign to finish her degree in secondary education, and would one day like to help fix the education system in Hawaii.
Her dream would be to live in New York and perform on Broadway for a year. Shed also like to visit every destination of her ethnic heritage which includes Chinese, Filipino, German, English, Irish, Spanish and Hawaiian.
Most of all, Gibson says shed like to be a good Miss Hawaii and make a difference in every way possible. Shes now met the sisterhood of women who have served before her, and they all have the same advice to give:
Be true to yourself, enjoy the experience and have fun. You will get out of it what you put in.
You think its just for a year, says Gibson, but Ive realized its a legacy that lives on. You will always be Miss Hawaii.
Posted: September 22, 2003 @ 9:30 AM HST
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