What a drag!

Miss Asia NYC Nicky Despi (Japan) and her court. Photo by Felix Manuel

Miss Nepal (Christina Son) in her 'loofah' costume. Photo by Ron Labaguis

By Cristina DC Pastor

Imagine “La Cage aux Folles” — only Pinoy.

It was the night of the gaudiest gown, the biggest hair and a pair of undies hanging low in a sequined mini, a case of the proverbial wardrobe malfunction.

But it was also a celebratory occasion for Asian “T girls” to come together, showcase their talent — and well-toned bodies — and momentarily forget the everyday worries about citizenship, access to health care and other issues facing transgender women.

Michelle Manangan

“We aim to put transgender Asian immigrants in the limelight,” said Miss Asia NYC organizer Michelle Manangan. “It is our goal to reveal how profoundly they are on the margins of society and to establish a supportive community for them in New York.

The 12 contestants — many of them Filipino transgender women – represented Asian countries like in a traditional beauty pageant. They paraded in the countries’ traditional costumes, wore swimsuits and formal gowns, and answered questions from the judges.

I was one of the seven judges, along with Define American founder Jose Antonio Vargas, marketing executive Grace Hufano-Labaguis of Essential Consulting Services, fashion blogger Darian Darling, first Miss Asia NYC Suzi Villa (a Guam native), stylist James Aita for Brooks Brothers and design director Dorothy Palmer for Gotham Jewels.

“Why do you think prostitution is prevalent among Asian transgender women?” I asked a contestant.

It was one of the provocative questions from a list that also included gay rights being the new civil rights movement and the need for federal health insurance for sex reassignment surgery.

There were goofy questions, such as the need for a third restroom for transgenders and why lavender should be the transgender color. The girls answered in all spirit and enthusiasm.

The pageant screamed color and drama. Over-the-top national costume was demonstrated by Miss Nepal (Christina Son), who navigated the tiny ballroom in her garland of loofah-looking pompom flowers. Miss Mongolia (Precilla To Wang Foo) came with a spiderweb-like cape and had to walk sideways so as not to poke the audience in the eye.

What brought the house down was when a man in front row offered a long-stem rose to Miss Japan (Nicky Despi) as she was walking the stage in her black-and-purple ruffle gown.

The wardrobe malfunction was initially awkward. But when the contestant (who shall not be named) caught on to it, she just pulled up the wayward underwear and went for the laughs.

“Oh my God, this is too much for me,” cried Vargas who was laughing so hard.

“My husband sent me a text message saying I was laughing so loud,” disclosed Labaguis. “Well, I can’t help it…the contestants were all fantastic and hilarious.”

There was enough ribald humor to keep the mood raunchy, courtesy of emcee Tobell Von Cartier, the contestants and the crowd. When the pageant’s mission statement — about how undocumented transgender women are typically “forced into sex work” — was read, someone in the audience hooted, “Forced?” The audience just broke into chaos of laughter.

Palmer, one of the judges, said it best: “It was a very special night for everyone.”

And the winners are:

Miss Asia NYC: Nicky Despi (Japan)
1st runners-up: Nijshanaaj Sudlarphaar (Thailand) and
Christina Son (Nepal)

2nd runner-up: Reigne Jennifer Tiglao (Vietnam)
Best In Swimsuit: Nijshanaaj Sudlarphaar (Thailand)

Best In Evening Gown: Nijshanaaj Sudlarphaar (Thailand); Christina Son (Nepal); Reigne Jennifer Tiglao (Vietnam) and Katherine Gantino (Indonesia)

Best In National Costume: Nicky Despi (Japan) and Nijshanaaj Sudlarphaar (Thailand)

Best In Interview: Nicky Despi (Japan) and Anjanette Moran (Taiwan)

Miss Congeniality: Precilla To Wang Foo (Mongolia)

Miss Photogenic, Miss Popularity & Darling of the Crowd: Chelle Lhuillier (Philippines)

The beauties…Photos by Ron Labaguis

…and three of the judges: me, Grace Hufano-Labaguis and Jose Antonio Vargas

Cristina DC Pastor is the founding editor of The FilAm.


  1. […] the recent Miss Asia NYC pageant for transgender women, contestant Priscilla To Wong Fu was asked: Why is prostitution […]

  2. MAE wrote:

    As a transsexual (e.g. one who is going through a real transition and is not a sex worker), I find this overglamorization of drag queens (who are mostly GAY MEN) to be sickening. Instead of spreading negative stereotypes about “T” folk by glamorizing these drag shows and drag beauty contests, let’s talk about the trans folk, Pinoy and otherwise who are being discriminated against for employment, housing and getting assaulted. There are many transsexuals such as myself who are offended by the label “transgender” and these drag shows are EXACTLY the reason why we don’t want to be under the same “umbrella” as gay men who wear dresses on weekends and who don’t go through the labor we go through with hormones, name changes, ID gender changes, trying to “pass” and trying to live day by day. Tell the real story.. it may not be as colorful as this rubbish, but is more real than this.

  3. […] the recent Miss Asia NYC; pageant for transgender women, contestant Priscilla To Wong Fu was asked: Why is prostitution […]

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