Crowning the Nice Girl: Gender, Ethnicity, and Culture in Hawai‘i’s Cherry Blossom Festival
304pp. June 2006
Crowning the Nice Girl: Gender, Ethnicity, and Culture in Hawai‘i’s Cherry Blossom Festival
Author: Yano, Christine R.;
After World War II, Japanese Americans in Hawai‘i sought to carve a positive niche of public citizenship in the community. In 1953 members of the Honolulu Japanese Junior Chamber of Commerce and their wives created a beauty contest, the Cherry Blossom Festival (CBF) Queen Pageant, which quickly became an annual spectacle for the growing urban population of Honolulu. Crowning the Nice Girl analyzes the pageant through its decades of development to the present within multiple frameworks of gender, class, and race/ethnicity. Drawing on extensive archival research; interviews with CBF queens, contestants, and organizers; and participant observation in the Fiftieth Annual Festival as a volunteer, Christine Yano paints a complex portrait of not only a beauty pageant, but also a community.

The study begins with the subject of beauty pageants in general and Asian American beauty pageants in particular, interrogating the issues they raise, embedding them within their histories, and examining them as part of a global culture that has taken its model from the Miss America contest.Yano follows the pageant throughout the decades into the 1990s, adding corresponding "herstories"—extensive narratives drawn from interviews with CBF queens. She concludes by framing issues of race, ethnicity, spectacle, and community within the intertwined themes of niceness and banality.

18 illus.

"A brilliant case study. . . . The author uses archival sources and interviews with Cherry Blossom Festival winners to expertly document . . . aspects of the intersection of gender, race, ethnicity, and class. Given that Korean, Indian, and other immigrants in the US also hold beauty pageants, this book will become a foundational text in the study of ethnic communities and popular culture." —Choice (44:7, March 2007)
Author: Yano, Christine R.;
Christine R. Yano is associate professor of anthropology at the University of Hawai‘i.
Read the prologue (PDF).

Prologue: Sansei Dreams of Beauty Queens and Beyond

Chapter one
Beauty Pageants as Spectacles of Gender, Race/Ethnicity, and Community

Chapter two Historicizing the Cherry Blossom Festival: Engendering the American Way of Life in Postwar Hawai‘i

Chapter three
The Cherry Blossom Festival as Center Stage in Hawai‘i: 1950s – 1960s

Chapter four
Herstories I: 1950s – 1960s

Chapter five
Struggles toward Reform: 1970s – 1990s

Chapter six
Herstories II: 1970s – 1990s

Chapter seven
Controversy and Reform: Finding a Place in the Twenty-fi rst Century

Chapter eight
Herstories III: 1999 – 2000s

Chapter nine
Crowning the "Nice Girl": The Politics and Poetics of Banality


Appendix: Cherry Blossom Festival Queens, 1953 – 2005