September 12th, 2009 | Published in Culture
By Sourichanh Chanthyasack and Kith Chittarath
History was made on Saturday, August 8th, 2009 at the iconic Palace of Fine Arts Theater, San Francisco, CA. Amy Monmaly Chanthaphavong was chosen by a panel of seven judges to be the 2009 Queen of the 24th Annual Miss Asian America Pageant. She beat out 22 other contestants at the Miss Asian America, the longest running Asian American Pageant in the United States– www.MissAsianAmerica.com. What’s unique about her win on Saturday, August 8th, 2009 was that she had never been in a pageant before. At age 27, her chances of taking the crown or placing would be daunting, but she proved the odds wrong.
With her beauty, grace, talent, intellect and charming personality, she demonstrated the beauty of Lao women worldwide by winning the title of Miss Asian America, becoming the first Laotian American to win a national mainstream pageant of this caliber. Some of the benefits of winning include the title included a Swarovski crystal crown, $5000 scholarship prize, an evening gown and jewelry. Fate brought Amy to San Francisco when she volunteered for the 1st International Lao New Year Festival (ILNYF) – www.LaoNewYear.com , which took place on April 11th, 2009 at San Francisco City Hall’s Civic Center Plaza located in between the Asian Art Museum and City Hall.
Amy stumbled upon the opportunity to participate in the 2009 Miss Asian America Pageant by chance at the First International Lao New Year Festival in San Francisco. Rose Chung, Founder/President of the Miss Asian America Pageant spotted her on stage at the San Francisco City Hall’s Civic Center and approached Mr. Sirch Chanthyasack, Chair of the ILNYF. Mr. Chanthyasack had served with Ms. Chung on the Steering Committee for the 2009 SF APA Heritage Month celebration, planning for the official launch of the May 2009 Asian Heritage Month in San Francisco City Hall Mayor’s office. Lao Seri Association in San Francisco agreed to lend their organization’s name as Amy’s first organization sponsor.
That was the beginning of history for the first Laotian American Queen. Amy’s determination, perseverance, and willingness to extend her hand was demonstrated throughout the 1st International Lao New Year Festival. Residing in New York, Amy volunteered her much needed help for the event. She flew in and worked tirelessly with other hardworking ILNYF committee members. Amy helped to coordinate with government officials at War of Memorial Building to set up the Green Room for the ILNYF evening gala. Amy also helped run operations back stage at Civic Center Plaza and still had time to model on stage during the afternoon festivities and evening gala. Amy symbolizes all Laotian American young ladies who are not only beautiful inside and out, but smart and very much capable in achieving anything that they set their hearts and minds to.
Amy’s victory has set the standard and benchmark for future Laotian American contestants who wish to participate, but never had a role model. She made the impossible, possible. This is a story that will inspire many Lao girls and mothers across the country and the world. The Lao community is proud of Ms. Chanthaphavong because her victory is the Lao community’s victory. She proudly represented Laotian Americans on Saturday, performing a traditional Lao cultural dance in traditional costume as part of her talent showcase. Her platform: assisting children and families in strengthening their relationships and preserving the family unit. Amy hopes her achievement will inspire Lao people all over the world to believe in themselves and have the confidence to dream big. She hopes to have the opportunity later this year to attend the 2009 SEA Games Dec 7 th-18th, being held in Vientiane, Lao PDR.
Born and raised in San Diego, California, Amy is currently a fashion design student at the Parsons in Manhattan, NYC. In addition to school, Amy is also the Operations Manager at Softagon Corporation. In 2004 she earned her Bachelors in Political Science from the University of San Francisco. Her community service includes interning at Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi’s office, volunteering at Bowery Mission Outreach, event coordinator at the 2009 First International Lao New Year Festival (ILNYF) in San Francisco and a host on LaoStar TV.