Miss Maikou Xiong, 21, St. Paul, was crowned Miss Hmong America last Thursday evening during a brief ceremony with family, friends and board members of Hmong American New Year, Inc. The mood was festive, but board members displayed some bewilderment at crowing the third Miss Hmong America since the pageant was held last December.
Maikou Xiong was the Second Runner Up of that pageant. She became Miss Hmong America after an unprecedented two reigning winners relinquished their title for marriage. The special ceremony was conducted at the new TCF Bank on University Avenue and Lexington Parkway. Neng Lee, a board member, served as the Master of Ceremonies.
Goldyer Yang was crowned the 2006 Miss Hmong America in late December 2005, after a two-day competition at the Hmong New Years Festival at the Minneapolis Metrodome. When she married sometime soon thereafter, the First Runner Up, Alicia Yang assumed the title, according to the pageant rules.
When Miss Yang married this summer, the board was concerned, not so much for the succession to the Second Runner Up, Maikou Xiong, as they were for the amount of prize money and incentives that were beginning to add up with three title holders in the same year. It is also difficult for the reputation of the pageant.
Dr. Cziasarh Yang, chair of American New Year, Inc., said as he crowned Miss Xiong that there is no script ready for such an unprecedented ceremony. So he said that he hoped his work would help to establish a tradition for crowning the Miss Hmong winner. He also noted that the board policy in the future would state that there would not be a fourth title holder if for some reason the Second Runner Up could not complete the year of her title.
The 2005 Miss Hmong America, Pakou Moua, was present to help crown Maikou Xiong, along with Chao Yang, the 1997 Miss Hmong Minnesota (The River Centre event) who is now a board member of the Miss Hmong American event, in charge of contests and shows.
Pakou Moua said that as Miss Hmong America, she was expected to volunteer as much as possible. She concentrated on public service and taught English to the new Hmong immigrants at the Hmong Academy. She also taught Hmong cultural dance and helped to create a Hmong pageant calendar with proceeds going to Hmong student organizations. Her other interest was with bringing awareness to the plight of the Hmong people of Laos. She did all of this while studying nursing at North Hennepin Community College.
Maikou Xiong said that she is a friend of the First Runner Up and thought that she might be asked to assume the title when she stepped down. When asked how she felt about being named to the title more than half-way through the year, she said that it was an honor just to win 2nd Runner Up, and to be named Miss Hmong America, even through the abdication of the previous winners is a wonderful challenge and opportunity.
Xiong had won third place at the event in 2005 and placed third again at the St. Paul New Year’s pageant in November 2004. So, she expressed understandable disappointment at the series of almost’s, but this is a competition where three women are selected from dozens more after days of being questioned and judged on their knowledge of Hmong history, language, culture, talent and character.
She has done consistently well in competition with many other contestants through her skills at designing and making her own clothes, a requirement of the pageant, and her traditional and popular singing and dancing. This is no small feet for first and second-generation Hmong Americans who live in two cultures.
Xiong is a talented singer and dancer, and has two CDs and music videos produced in California by Apple Video Production (www.applevideoproduction.com). She plans to volunteer as much as possible in the remaining months of her title. She wants to do her best to present the Hmong culture in the most positive way and be a good role model for youth especially.
Xiong was born in Ban Vinai refugee camp in Thailand. She was raised in Oroville, California for ten years, and her family resettled in Minnesota just two years ago. She studied early childhood education at Butte College in California and plans to continue studies at the University of Minnesota.
Lia Yang, Maiku’s mother, was there to witness the crowning, along with a brother, Xai Xiong, a sister-in-law, Mai Xiong, and a friend, Yer Moua Lor, D.C.
Sam Holl, branch manager of the new TCF Bank at 459 Lexington Parkway, hosted the event at the request of a customer who is on the board. Holl said this is one way for TCF to become more involved with the Hmong community.