Sunday, November 01, 2009

A Courageous Beauty Interview: Mrs. Elite Ambassador-Jin Trang

Angie: I'm very excited to share my new friend, Jin Trang, with you. But a little treat is that she is sharing a few photos of her clothing designs. So keep reading, I'll put the photos and descriptions in this post.

Here's Jin with her hubby, Gordon. :-)

Jin, Tell us a little about Mrs. Elite Ambassador:

Jin: Mrs. Elite Ambassador is a program run by Harvey Productions. It is part of the World Elite Pageant. This competition is unique in that it recognizes the values, achievements and dreams of married women all over the world.

A contestant submits a headshot and an essay telling about herself, her values that kept the marriage together, and what she would like to accomplish as a titleholder.

I decided to compete because the simplicity of the competition. It requires no fancy attire, traveling arrangements and so on. I think the simple focus on values and goals boils it down to what a married woman really truly values in her heart.

Angie: What is your platform?

Jin: My platform is Cultural Diversity. I grew up with a lack of diversity and I felt the need to educate my community about the importance especially after witnessing discrimination and racial hate crimes. I believe this is because the lack of awareness education.

I think it is important to have open events (and an open mind) in the community where people can mix and mingle and learn about each other’s cultures.

I volunteer to organize Culture Fridays in local elementary schools, to go in as a guest speaker to the eager young minds. I share a bit of my Korean-American culture so they can have a better understanding of the lives of recently immigrated classmates.

Also, I participate in promoting events such as the Aloha Festival, Japanese Matsuri Festival, Korean Arirang Festival, Chinese Dragon Boat Festival, Indo-American Cultural fundraisers, and so on.

Angie: How did you learn about the Mrs. Elite Ambassador pageant?

Jin: I was surfing the web for some decent pageants to compete in. I ran into World Elite Pageant. The competition fees were lower compared to other pageants, and I found there was a non-performance talent optional, which is what caught my eye. I *love* painting, and I never had a chance to showcase it on stage during my scholarship pageants. Unfortunately, I was not able to travel this year.

So I started browsing the World Elite website, and I ran into the Mrs. Elite Ambassador category. No travel required, but it seemed like a title that I wanted to go for. I still wanted to be part of the World Elite pageant family, so before I knew it, I was typing up my entry essay!

Angie: Why did you decide to compete?

Jin: There are not enough pageants out there for married women. If this is an opportunity to reflect on my values and goals, and a chance to get recognized, why not?! Also, I love writing. :-D

Angie: Was this your first pageant?

Jin: No. I competed in a handful here and there before, “won” some, “lost” some,… Overall, pageants were a process of self-development for me. The Mrs. Elite Ambassador pageant is very simple and straight-forward so I encourage newcomers to compete.

Angie: Tell us about what you have been able to do as Mrs. Elite Ambassador.

Jin: I have been able to do a fundraiser (Palette of Homes Tour, Free Arts or Arizona) for abused and neglected children of Arizona. I volunteered as a tour guide to raise money from the admissions tickets. I got to meet new people, get involved in a cause I believed in; ending the cycle of abuse and neglect and help the children heal and flourish.

Also, through UMOM (United Ministry Outreach Program) I have helped renovate abandoned motel property to house homeless families. There are facilities for the families to live in, receive training for high-demand jobs, and daycares for the children. The thought of helping homeless families get back on their feet warmed my heart. Somebody needs to help them start somewhere, and give them the resources to become independent.

St. Mary’s Foodbank was a lot of fun. I met so many cool people while working in teams to put together a box for families in need.

My fav is being in charity fashion shows. Working the runway (sometimes to showcase my own designs or my colleagues’ designs) is what I absolutely love doing. Plus, I get to help the charities that I support. Go Fashion!

1. A design by me called "violet jewel". The whole dress is beaded, the skirt is made of lace. I chose violet because its a mysterious, sexy color. Elongates the super petite body.
28-22-32. This is my first major creation.

I also took part in many cultural events such as Phoenix Chinese Week, Aloha Festival, Chinese Dragon Boat Festival, Japanese Matsuri Festival, Korean Arirang Festival, Chandler Multicultural Festival, Indo-American Muslim fundraisers, and so on. Its so much fun learning about other cultures!

Angie: There's an idea in society that pageants are just skin deep. How would you answer that?

Jin: In a live beauty pageant, judges look for beauty, glamour, attitude, poise, modeling abilities, that incredible “it” factor of a girl that turns heads, articulate outgoing personalities,… the list goes on. People think it is only about the looks, but its not. Every woman is beautiful in her own way, it's unfortunate that the judges have to choose a “winner”. I don’t like to think of pageants as winning or losing, I would like to think of it as the process of selecting the candidate that is best meets the needs of the pageant system at that given time.

What people tend to miss is that pageants are a good developmental tool for greater goals in life. The journey to acquiring a title requires self-reflection, fine-tuning and character development. For example, the swim suit segment of pageants has helped me keep fit, active, and maintain a healthy lifestyle. I encourage fitness in my community by organizing hiking groups. It's too easy to settle into a sedentary lifestyle, which can cause health complications in the long run. Health rocks!

The evening gown portion helped me in my modeling career, where my job is to sell the clothes I am modeling. It helped me learn the attitude, walk, posing, and various runway techniques that were needed for the shows.

Here's another of Jin's designs perfect for evening gown competitions.

Finally, interview skills. The various styles helped me prepare for my job interview, as well as law school interviews. I learned how to present my views consistently and defend them under the pressure of competition. I had to stand out from the crowd with well articulated answers that grabbed and kept the judges’ attention. The best part is I had to look into my heart and really dig out the issues I truly cared about. To polish off the issues I truly cared about, I learned how to present them with mannerisms that would give the judges (or employers, after I graduated college) something to remember.

Press-conference style interviews also helped me in theatre and debate. It is all about relating to the audience. Yes, of course I was nervous, but after press conference style interviews at national pageants, law school admission interviews, and job interviews were more manageable. I’m thankful that I secured a stable job in this economy, and secured a spot in a law school for 2010.

Pageants have impacted me in a positive manner, and I am sure there are other women that have benefited from the self-discovery.

Angie: You have an extensive education. What are your plans now?

Jin: I have a couple things I would like to do.
Here’s my passion: I would like to have my own clothing line. It has been such a battle shopping for clothes because nothing fits me (I am a size 000 Petite). Even the smallest item at Ann Taylor Petite is very baggy on me. I realized that a group of my friends I knew are super petite, and they knew other girls who faced the same problem, and so on. Our complaint is that we can’t alter every single piece of clothing item we buy because it does not make economic sense. Also, if we shop in the Tween section, we might find something that fits, but its usually not age-appropriate, and does not fit us proportionately (kids clothes have shorter cut torsos, shorter hem length, inseam, and a lack of accommodation for our curves.)

Angie: It must be hard for super petits to find professional attire. I can't imagine how embarrassing it is to have to shop in the children's department for clothes to wear to work and special events.

Jin: I think that every woman has the right to have age-appropriate, fashion-forward, proportionate, professional looking clothes. My vision is to provide them with what they need. I see there are XXL or 1X, 2X, 3X markets out there, but there is a lack of recognition for the way left side of the bell curve. I want to create a niche market for the super petites like myself.

Also, after I get a bit older and gain some business experience, I would like to get PhD in international Justice Studies and become an international human rights lawyer. I can’t fix everything, but I would like to do my part in making this world a better place while making my profit ethically.

Angie: Why is it important for a person to look their best? Is it all about looks?

Jin: I model part time, and the modeling industry is known for… well, looking for specific looks for a given project. I heard one scout say that looks will get people in the door, but the model has to have a positive attitude, experience, and an ability to work well with other people. Photographers don’t really like working with drop dead gorgeous but grumpy stiff models who don’t know how to pose + have bad attitudes! Also, a gorgeous model who doesn’t know how to talk… sure she can turn heads, but she won’t be able to keep people’s attention. Being articulate is as important as looks, especially for commercials and promo.

This is also applicable in the non-modeling world: I have heard employers subconsciously make decision based on how well a person is groomed. It is all about first impressions when you walk into a door to meet somebody that may or may not hire you. If two candidates have similar experience and similar abilities, then the employer was more likely choose the candidate that is professional looking and well-groomed. Being clean and well-groomed is a sign that you take care of yourself and invest time into your well-being. It is also polite for customers and the people around you. However, looks are not the sole factor. If you don’t have the experience, attitude, or work ethics, then it would be a whole different story.

Bottom line: looking your best is important, but it is not the whole game.

Angie: What do you hope to achieve with the Mrs. Elite Ambassador honor?

Jin: In honor of my mother: One specific thing I would really like to do is to offer my time to my community through volunteering for international women’s organization programs. Many of the women involved in these organizations are the wives of international grad students. A majority of these women have trouble speaking American English, and rely on their husbands.

I would like to help these women develop their language skills, introduce the American culture to them. I would like to empower these women by helping them integrate into their communities. I know from my mother’s experience that it can be difficult to be a housewife in a foreign land, and would like to offer my support and open ear for these women. I would also like to encourage them to converse with their husbands, and try to understand them in order to pull through these difficult situations. This will give me a great sense of fulfillment, and a service that can be appreciated in the community.

Angie: Would you share about your flair for fashion?

Jin: It was my rebellious teenage spirit that lived on. I went to a strict private school where we had uniforms. To me, my clothes, backpack, shoes were an outlet of expression. Suppression sometimes leads to passion. I got in trouble here and there for tweaking my uniform/backpack/shoes too much, but it all pays off in the name of fashion. LOL.

Find something. Tweak it, experiment. Create something out of scratch. Express your personality in what you wear and how you act…Model it.

Oh, and I ignored trends. Some things that were “in” just didn’t flatter my figure at all. If it doesn’t work, find something else. I kept this free creative spirit, and I think that helped me develop all these ideas as a designer.

After I graduated, a couple consultants have given me guidance on the shade of colors that flatter my skin tone, what flatters my body figure, and I started to appreciate natural beauty. Based on that, I have created some ideas for business casuals that are more suitable for work. Someday, I plan to launch swim suits, business casual first and see
how that goes. I never know 'til I try : )

Angie: Jin, do you have a faith that helps you, guides you somehow?

Jin: The faith that guides me in my life: I believe in God. But I work my butt off before asking him any favors such as an awesome job, good grades, fit body, etc. Keeping a prayer notebook has allowed me to realize the priorities in my life, the struggles and conflicts I met and how I dealt with them. So its not only to God, but also a record for myself, my milestones, and seeing myself change over the years.

Angie: I'm thrilled to have the ability to share Jin Trang with everyone. The example Jin sets by taking well-thought out chances in order to fill a need she recognizes is exactly the kind of leadership women should follow. She's not only a Courageous Beauty, but she is sharing that courage through her life example. Thank you, Jin, for being with us today!
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