By Yu Shing Ting
From the old plantation town of Kilauea on Kauai to the glitz and glamour
of Atlantic City, local girl Olena Rubin is living a dream come true as the
newly crowned Miss Hawaii 2004.
I couldnt believe it. It was a dream that was realized and all
I could do was just cry, recalls Rubin, 23, of the moment her name was
called as Hawaiis representative for Miss America 2005.
I think it was six or seven years of hope and dreaming that just came
I remember standing there holding the swimsuit and the talent awards,
and theres a chance that if you win swimsuit and talent that youll
get first runner up, so when I wasnt called for fourth, third, second
or first, then I was kind of like, does that mean I won? And then I just kind
of was in shock. I just looked down and Im just holding my prizes and
Im just waiting for the Miss West Oahu, and then I just started crying.
After that, it was all just a haze. It just seems like a dream.
Three days after winning the prestigious state title, Rubin met with MidWeek
at the Hilton Hawaiian Village Beach Resort and Spa to talk about her new life
and goals as Miss Hawaii.
goal is to get out there and be very active in the community and travel as much
as I can, says Rubin, who entered the pageant four times before winning
the crown. And I really want to use this year as a vehicle to get my message
out which is the ABCs of HIV.
Its a very simple message - A for abstinence, B for being monogamous
and C for condom use.
Also, I think that because of my experience where I had to continue to
try and try and try for Miss Hawaii, Ive kind of interpreted everything
into living the dream - that with hard work, dedication and perseverance you
can accomplish anything.
Rubin, a volunteer with the Life Foundation, chose AIDS and HIV awareness as
her platform. Her plan is to re-educate students about AIDS and HIV prevention
by visiting schools and implementing a comprehensive approach to teaching sex
I want it to be where its not just abstinence-based, but it teaches
all the different areas and educates children about themselves, and about respecting
themselves and making the right decisions, explains Rubin. I first
started volunteering for an AIDS organization on Kauai called Malama Pono with
a friend from high school when I was in 10th grade, and Ive known a lot
of people who have passed on from advanced AIDS disease. I was also kind of
surrounded by surrogate family members who had contracted HIV and died, so it
had an effect upon my life when I was growing up.
Rubin was born and raised on Kauai and attended Kilauea Elementary School followed
by Kapaa Intermediate and High School.
We didnt have a high school anywhere near the North Shore so you
had to take a bus, which is a half-hour ride to Kapaa, says Rubin,
who also volunteers as a Big Sister with the Big Brothers Big Sisters organization.
Two months after graduation from high school, I just knew that I wanted
to move to Honolulu. Growing up in the country, you want to go to the big city,
and I actually was going to go to school at USC. But I had reservations about
going to the Mainland and living in California, so I thought if I can make it
in Honolulu then I can make it on the Mainland.
Rubin decided to use her scholarships to Hawaii Pacific University she received
from entering pageants in high school and moved to Honolulu.
It was the first step to independence, she recalls. Ive
travelled a lot, but I never moved. I always stayed here, so six years later
and Im still here on Oahu. I love it here. Its definitely my home,
and I guess it should be since Im Miss Hawaii.
stunning mix of Chinese, Russian, Polish and Jewish, Rubin entered and won her
first pageant, Miss Kauai Teen, at age 13. That title sent her to compete in
the Miss Hawaii Teen pageant, where she won first runner-up. She then ran for
Kauai Junior Miss in high school and placed first runner-up again.
I remember everybody was really happy and they were like, Oh, great,
now you can run for Miss Garden Isle and then you can run for Miss Hawaii,
says Rubin. It was a long road, but I ended up running for Miss Garden
Isle and winning, and then competing for Miss Hawaii.
I think its definitely a dream. Ive always watched it growing
up ,and I always would record it and watch it in my spare time. I know a lot
of girls in Hawaii look to Miss Hawaii as a role model and a mentor, and since
I had competed in it I felt like it was an attainable goal, that it was within
reach, because in previous years I placed second runner-up (1998) and first
runner-up (1999). Then I took a few years off and ran again and I was second
runner-up again (2003), so it was like Im almost there but not quite.
She didnt give up, and her perseverance paid off. As the ballroom lights
dimmed and the stage lights shone on the 13 beautiful contestants in the 2004
Miss Hawaii Scholarship Program June 18, Rubin, who stands 5 feet 7 inches tall
and weighs 115 pounds, wowed the judges in a white two-piece Calvin Klein halter
bikini and took the top score for the swimsuit phase.
Her body is proportioned and she looked comfortable on stage, says
Kevin Kaneshiro, who chose Rubin as one of his favorites in the swimsuit phase
before the winners were even announced. She just stood out for me.
She knew how to walk in a bathing suit on a runway, adds Flavio
Gomes, who also chose Rubin as his favorite in the swimsuit phase. It
didnt bother her that she was standing in front of all these people in
a swimsuit, and thats how it should be.
Rubin would then go on to win the talent award as well, singing Bette Midlers
version of Do You Want To Dance. Her dress for the talent portion was
a strapless peach/orange gown by Laundry and from Rafael.
For the evening wear and on-stage interview phases, she wore a pink satin dress
cut low in the back with a bow and a slight train, from Neiman Marcus. Its
very elegant and portrayed what you needed to portray, says Gomes, who
again picked Rubin as one of his favorites in the evening gown phase. You
want a gown that speaks for your personality and her gown did just that.
Rubin sold 90 tickets to friends and family for the pageant. Her wardrobe was
paid for with her own money. However, she held a fundraiser prior to the pageant
and sent out sponsor letters.
She didnt have a pageant coach, but instead received tons of support
and help from various people, including Todd Oshiro, the executive director
for her preliminary pageant; Alicia Michioka, friend and Miss Hawaii USA 2003,
and Craig Shimizu, her voice teacher.
The most exciting part of the pageant, other than winning the title,
was winning the talent award, admits Rubin.
Im terrified of performing in public, especially on stage on live
TV. Last year I had a little pitch problem where I was totally flat, and I couldnt
hear it because I was so nervous, so I was afraid to sing on stage.
This time I totally overcame my fear. I dont know what it was,
if it was meditation or just being more focused. I just kept telling myself
that you can do it. You can sing. Youre a singer.
And when I went out there, I was a little scared and a little nervous,
but when the audience started to clap and when the people started to get into
it, I just felt warmth around me and I just let go and I just sang.
So the most exciting thing for me was singing my song and being happy
with the performance, and I thought when I walked off the stage that no matter
what the outcome that I was going to be happy because I felt that I succeeded
in accomplishing my goal.
As for the most difficult part of the pageant, Rubin says it was trying to
decide what to believe and what to use from all the different information and
advice she received from people.
Everyone has their input as to what you should do and what you should
wear and how you should walk, explains Rubin. Everything from the
earrings to the shoes. People have the best intentions, but you really need
to know what you want, and for me that was a struggle because I needed to know
what made me happy and what I was going to be most comfortable wearing, singing
Rubin, a speech communications major at HPU, plans to eventually enter the
speech masters program at the University of Hawaii and study speech pathology
with hopes of becoming a child speech therapist.
She currently works as an English writing tutor at HPU, a server at Alan Wongs
Restaurant, a sales associate at Animation Magic, and a voice-over talent for
Clear Channel Communications.
Rubin, an only child, was raised by her mom, Susan, a single parent. At the
time, her mom worked as a flight attendant for United Airlines and often left
her with different families/baby-sitters.
She would actually take me to homes with families for weeks because she
travelled internationally, so I kind of refer to them as my foster families,
explains Rubin. I met my hanai brother, Dane Waialeale, when I was 13
years old. Hes a hair and makeup artist, and he would do my hair and makeup
for winter ball and proms, and he was like youre such an amazing
young girl. I was on the swim team and chorus and mock trial, and my mom
was never really there to see it, and he was like wow you should run for
Miss Hawaii. So the whole time hes prepping me for all this and
his family just ended up hanai-ing me for my last two years in high school.
Its just weird because I was raised by five different families as a child
and my mom and this hanai family on Kauai, and then I moved over here to Honolulu
and Im all by myself.
Also, I just recently met my father in February for the first time. He
lives here on Oahu, but we havent really developed the father-daughter
relationship. Its more just getting to know where I come from and what
my culture is and to know that side of the family more.
But Rubin isnt anywhere close to being all by herself. With her pretty
face, friendly smile, good heart, positive attitude and contagious laughter,
she has made many friends on the Gathering Place. Theres also her boyfriend,
Ryan Woodward. If his name rings a bell, he played for the UH mens volleyball
team. The celebrity couple has been together for three and a half years.
I get real excited when we talk about Olena, says Ray Abregano,
pageant producer/director, who also teaches 10th-grade English at St. Louis
School. She has been very helpful. Whenever theres an appearance
or when I need somebody to speak to my kids about being true to oneself, about
building ones personality or about self-improvement, shell always
make herself available.
I think what the judges saw in her was her sincerity. For her talent,
she sang and she projected her personality across the stage lights. Shes
just indescribable. Shes funny, spontaneous and unique. She takes on many
roles. When its time to be serious, shell be very serious, and when
its time to be funny, shell take on that role. She knows how to
For the next couple of months, Rubin and the Miss Hawaii committee will be
busy preparing for the Miss America pageant scheduled for Sept. 18 (to be aired
Throughout her reign, she will also serve as the official Honorary Hostess
for the state, a title that all future Miss Hawaiis will hold. Earlier this
year, the state Legislature passed concurrent resolutions honoring Miss Hawaii
with this new role.
I have a few more years before I graduate from college, but Im
going to take this year off because I want to do a lot as Miss Hawaii,
says Rubin. Im serious. If theres a car wash and they want
me to be there, I want to be there.
I dont want to have any regrets by the time this year is over.
I want to do my best to really leave a lasting impression and a legacy for the
next Miss Hawaii.
And no matter what, Olena Rubin will always be Miss Hawaii.