NTD’s Evelyn Li had a chance to speak with the winner of the inaugural NTD Global Chinese Beauty Pageant—Miss NTD, Cynthia Sun. Ms. Sun says she was never actually interested in beauty pageants until she took part in this one.
Evelyn Li: I’m here with our very first Miss NTD! Cynthia Sun, welcome!
Cynthia Sun: Thank you, Evelyn!
Evelyn Li: How does it feel?
Cynthia Sun: I’m still baffled right now, it’s surreal! Every single time I hear something like, “Hello, Miss NTD, should we bow to you?” I still feel like it’s not me! I feel like it’s an otherworldly experience! It really doesn’t feel real, because I didn’t expect to win at all.
Evelyn Li: Well, I think you did so well. And it was quite the competition, because everybody was so good. And so what I’m interested in is: what made you apply for this pageant in particular? Why not any other? Why NTD?
Cynthia Sun: I actually wasn’t interested in beauty pageants before this one, because it seemed very superficial to me. And everyone always asked me, you know, do you want to model? Because we have “Miss Chinatown” in Houston. And they were always like: “Oh, you should apply to go to Miss Chinatown.” But I really felt like they were judging it based on physical appearance, or based off your resume, and it just didn’t feel like it was who I truly was, or what was wholly me.
Evelyn Li: So what was it about this process that felt different to you?
Cynthia Sun: Actually, they really emphasized the question and answer portion, and they didn’t have a bikini section. So they did more athletic wear, and they did evening gown. And you’re expected to walk naturally in a very charismatic and, you know, exuberant confidence. And I think that part itself was very respectful. And also, the Q&A section was where most of the points actually came from. So they would ask you, you know, what do you think the qualities of a good role model are? What do you think traditional Chinese women, and what do you think Miss NTD should do? How should she inspire other women to also pursue their heritage and reconnect with their roots? And I felt like those question and answer sections really made me reflect a lot, and dig deep to find where my roots are—what is the meaning of my life? What do I want to do in this life to make it meaningful? And how can I inspire other ladies?
Evelyn Li: So what did you find?
Cynthia Sun: Yeah, a lot! Oh, my gosh, we could be here all day! The first thing I found was balance. I feel like, I’ve always been someone who isn’t considered American in America; I’m not considered Chinese in China. And it just felt like I was bits of a whole. But during this process, this entire week of the pageant, I really felt like there is a way to reconnect with virtues, to respectfully embody those virtues in American society, in modern-day society, by the way you treat other people, by the way you read history books, and try to emulate that. Filial piety towards your parents, or toward your siblings, your friends, strangers—I feel like these everyday interactions are something that can be balanced, it doesn’t have to be one extreme or the other. And that balance is something in my identity, and also my optimism, my sense of self. I feel like that’s been reached by the end of the week.
Evelyn Li: And obviously, now you have this platform as Miss NTD. We just talked, and you said you might do some traveling as well. So what do you want to do with this platform?
Cynthia Sun: Yeah, I really want to just connect with individuals who might be struggling with the same thing that I have, which is really trying to find and reconnect to my identity. I think if I am able to talk one-on-one, or meet other Chinese-Americans, or second-generation young women from around the world with Chinese heritage, I think we’ll inspire each other and motivate each other to do better.
Evelyn Li: I think that’s great. A lot of what you said really resonated with me as somebody that grew up in the West as well. And I’m glad that now there’s like, little younger Chinese girls that have this kind of role model, and look up to you! So thank you so much for taking this time today. And congratulations again!
Cynthia Sun: Thank you so much!