U college student Sisilia Kaufusi enters Miss Utah pageant as lone contestant of color – The Daily Utah Chronicle
“When you think of a Tongan woman, it’s probably not me – too dark, too skinny, too plastic, too fie palangi, ”Sisilia Kaufusi said during Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month. Celebration and Rally May 22. “When you think of an American woman, I don’t follow what comes to mind. My skin tone and the curl of my hair are all they see sometimes. So tell me what am I supposed to do? What place do I have left?
Kaufusi, a human resources student at the University of Utah, spoke at the event as Miss Rocky Mountain and the only person of color in 49 to enter this year’s Miss Utah pageant.
The fifth of nine children and a first-generation student, Kaufusi found the Miss America organization in an attempt to pay for her education. The Miss America organization focuses on providing scholarships to young female competitors.
In 2017, she entered her first contest, Miss Pacific Islander, and won.
“It was so much more than wearing a dress,” she said. “What I discovered very quickly [is] you have to serve your community, make sure that the whole year is dedicated to the service, your platform and what you support.
Kaufusi has held the title of Miss Rocky Mountain for about five months. She initially placed first in the competition, but quickly secured the crown when the initial winner dropped out due to COVID-19 concerns.
Now she will compete in Miss Utah from June 10-12. The competition was canceled last year due to COVID-19, and the events will be reduced this year as well.
“We are delighted to be able to organize a competition and offer this experience to a group of women who are well deserving of the scholarships and recognition, ”said Whitney Thomas, director of communications for Miss Utah Scholarship Organization, Inc., in an email interview.
As mentioned above, Kaufusi will be the only woman of color to compete and she said she feels a lot of pressure because of it.
“I feel a huge weight on my shoulders just because I know that for me as a little girl, I want to see myself in that kind of position because I haven’t. It’s hard to imagine yourself as something that you don’t see, ”Kaufusi said. “It gets a little lonely because I feel like a lot of people don’t really understand why this is so important to me, or why it’s even a topic to talk about.”
In the early years of the Miss America pageant, rule number seven prohibited women of color from competing.
Kaufusi said she believes it might be difficult for people of color to enter these contests due to the lack of representation.
“I don’t fit the stereotypical Utah beauty standard,” she said. “It’s difficult because you look at all the past winners of this competition, and you look at all the girls that you compete against, all the people who are going to judge you, and you don’t look like any of them., but everyone expects you to always feel as confident as everyone else, to always feel like you belong there.
Thomas said the judges are looking for someone who loves the state of Utah and is willing to serve it.
“The emphasis is on service and education. Although we encourage our candidates to present themselves in a professional manner, there is no rating based on their appearance or beauty, ”Thomas said.
She also said they wanted someone who was ready to jump in and promote her social impact initiative.
Kaufusi’s initiative, titled “IM-POSSIBLE”, aims to motivate inner-city youth to exceed expectations and break the limits that society imposes on them.
Growing up in West Valley, she said she wanted to create a better environment than the one she grew up in. This includes changing the narrative of success.
To do this, Kaufusi began working with high schools around his house, talking to young people and encouraging them to change the stats against them.
“When I was in high school I had a GPA of 1.3 – I wasn’t going to graduate,” she said. “I had no goals or something like that. It wasn’t until I truly realized I was in control of my life, it was when I started changing my grades that I was able to graduate.
If she were to win Miss Utah, she wants to work with city councils to improve the environments in which these children grow up.
“Get them more funding, equal funding, and really help them see other aspects of life than just, if you’re good enough at throwing a soccer ball, or if you’re good enough to have it all. those A rights, then you ‘I’ll be successful in life,’ Kaufusi said.
After redefining success and presenting opportunities to these kids, Kaufusi believes they’ll be able to find the path that’s right for them.
“They’re more than pretty girls and pretty dresses, they’re young women taking the time to make the changes you want to see in the communities you live in,” she said.