ABSTRACT

The Miss Chinatown U.S.A. beauty pageant has served as a beauty competition, a promotional event to attract tourism, and a means for exploring and celebrating ethnic identity. Because of its multiple purposes, an analysis of the pageant provides insights into ChineseAmerican efforts to construct both gender and ethnic identities during the post-World War II era. In defining the ideal woman to represent Chinatown, pageant organizers responded to developing cultural, economic, and political tensions within the Chinese-American community and the broader American society. In turn, these efforts to represent Chinese-American womanhood generated a variety of responses that reflected community conflicts surrounding not only gender roles and ethnic identity but also class divisions and international politics.2