A Gift of Hope Geraldine by Zialcita
A Gift of Hope Geraldine by Zialcita | Foto: A Gift of Hope Geraldine by Zialcita

Rose Chung, A Gift of Hope by Geraldine Zialcita

Por: Diego Cerón

22, September, 2022 en Luxury Trending

Rose Chung blossomed into this world planting seeds of love and serving with joy in her heart―a gift of hope.

Beginning at seven years old, Rose looked forward to memorizing the annual Miss Chinatown poster that accompanied the Chinese Times Newspaper. The Miss Chinatown USA pageant was the highlight of the community during that era. The pageant was followed by special events, a coronation ceremony, a regal ball, and a glamorous fashion show. The festival ended with the queen on her float presiding over the grand Chinese New Year parade. Each Chinatown household had a copy of the poster and the ladies in the sewing factory would chatter and predict who would be the new Miss Chinatown USA.

Rose’s mom, a widow, didn’t speak a word of English. She was very strict with her five daughters. The youngest one was Rose. According to Rose, “We lived a very sheltered life and hardly went out. She worked as a seamstress, like many immigrant mothers of that generation. My sisters and I assisted with her sewing work, cooking, and cleaning chores. We wore hand-me-downs and could not afford any extracurricular activities.” In the midst of such a frugal life, it was an extravagance that Rose’s mom gave each daughter a dime on Saturday to go swim at the North Beach pool. It was a reward for spending the morning cleaning the house.

A Gift of Hope Geraldine by Zialcita
A Gift of Hope Geraldine by Zialcita

As a teen, Rose was lucky enough to watch the pageant twice and was mesmerized by how the contestants projected their beauty. “They radiated grace and poise. Everything about them seemed perfect and I couldn’t measure up. Finally, when I was 21 years of age, I got to chat with a few of the contestants at the coronation ball and I realized I could be like them.”

Upon completing the X-ray Technology program, Rose did not forget her dream of becoming Miss Chinatown USA despite her mother discouraging her from any big dreams and insisting she live a simple life. Nevertheless, in 1981 at twenty-two years old, Rose gathered her courage and confidence to participate in the Rose Ball pageant two months before the Miss Chinatown USA Pageant. She won first runner-up in the Rose Ball pageant, which was organized by the Bay Area Chinese Students Alumni Association (BACSAA). The organization became her sponsor for the Miss Chinatown USA Pageant.

Rose studied the attributes and skills of successful pageant queens. Although the standards of the competition were much simpler at that time, Rose hired a choreographer to teach her a modern dance for the talent segment. “My goal was for the judges to see me as a happy and genuine person who radiates kindness. I never anticipated winning the top title, and when the emcee announced Rose Chung as Miss Chinatown USA, the moment felt surreal and took me back to my childhood dream full circle.”

As Miss Chinatown USA, Rose’s confidence increased and opportunities arose as charity organizations reached out. Through this, Rose developed leadership skills and proved her value to herself and others.

A Gift of Hope Geraldine by Zialcita
A Gift of Hope Geraldine by Zialcita

Rose was enthusiastic about her newfound status as a celebrity volunteer and became the President of the BACSAA from 1982-1987. “I was so hungry to serve and be part of an organization that could help other women maximize their potential. Coordinating this pageant would give other women the opportunity to shine.” As BACSAA President, Rose’s responsibilities included organizing the pageant, fundraising, press conferences, picnics, and camping trips.

During the 1984 Rose Ball Pageant, the leader of the band approached Rose to coordinate the Miss Asian California Pageant at the first Asian Arts Festival held at Santa Clara County Fairgrounds. “Eager, fearless and naive, I ended up producing the entire festival. We had food and game booths, a bingo hall, continuous live entertainment, an art exhibit, and an opening parade.” The Miss Asian California Pageant was only one of the features of the festival. The festival did not continue, but the Miss Asian California Pageant was firmly established.

From its inception in 1985, the Miss Asian California Pageant added the title Miss Asian America in 1991 and finally evolved into the Miss Asian Global Pageant in 2012, the longest-running Asian pageant in the United States. It has served as a stepping stone for close to a thousand diverse Asian women. Aside from presenting the beauty, talent, and culture of Asian women, the pageant focuses on inspiring them to believe and achieve their dreams. “Knowing that I have given value to others means so much to me. I have managed to keep the pageant like a family. We have dedicated volunteers who have been serving for more than thirty years.”

A Gift of Hope Geraldine by Zialcita
A Gift of Hope Geraldine by Zialcita

Rose understands that many people do not value pageantry believing it is superficial. Seven years ago, Rose shared leadership with current president Vincent Ma who had been volunteering for 16 years. Dr. Francis Kong, our leadership director, led our team of pageant alumni and volunteers to start Imagine Talks which is an Asian version of Ted Talks, wherein leaders speak and inspire the audience to be the best version of themselves. This annual leadership conference features prominent individuals in different fields such as entrepreneurship, science, technology, arts, humanity, entertainment, and leadership culminating in an invigorating exchange of new ideas. The motto of Imagine Talks is “maturity, intelligence, and integrity,” with the mission to empower Asian women to create alliances and inspire them to be leaders to make a deep social impact.

In 2014, Vincent Ma established the non-profit, Asian America Foundation, to expand its programs. The Miss Asian Global Pageant is a fundraiser for Imagine Talks and other programs. One pageant alumni, Eranthe Mitome, started the “Love is the Cure” campaign to inspire community service from a place of love.

After thirty-seven years, Rose is ready to step aside from day-to-day pageant operations. Her legacy is carried by the new generation of young women leaders who are under the age of thirty. “They are so smart, competent, and resilient. I encourage them to be innovative in making the pageant relevant to their generation. They don’t need to be fearful of making mistakes because failures are opportunities to learn valuable lessons. In our Miss Asian Global family, I get to meet women from all walks of life. A lot of these women have used the pageant as a stepping stone for their success. A number of them have become celebrities and leaders in their field. Seeing how I’ve played a fundamental role in molding and shaping their future brings tremendous joy.”

A Gift of Hope Geraldine by Zialcita
A Gift of Hope Geraldine by Zialcita

In 2000, Rose was encouraged to run for the San Francisco Board of Supervisors to more actively serve her community. Rose didn’t win, but her winning opponent, Aaron Peskin, hired her as his legislative aide. She worked for Supervisor Peskin from 2001-2009. “This was the best job I ever had, working 12 hours a day. I helped constituents navigate through the government process, participated in neighborhood events, and brought people together through cultural activities especially, in Chinatown. The greatest bonus was being the godmother of 19, most of whom were my interns or were connected through my community gatherings. They continue to volunteer for activities such as social media, marketing, and fund development.”

Rose is also the Board Chair for APA Family Support Services which helps clients in raising healthy young children. “This organization is meaningful to me because it provides service that my mom did not have as a young immigrant woman. There were no resources available as she felt alone and feared for the safety of her young children.” Rose recalls her humble beginnings and how her life has unfolded to be the empowered woman she is today. “Looking back, I never felt like I embodied the qualities of a beauty queen. I realize that my low self-esteem came from my upbringing. Asian parents are known to provide tough love. My mom is part of a generation that used discipline rather than praise and affection. Although she never showed it, I know my mom was proud of what I have accomplished. In fact, today, I channel her warrior spirit when I feel uncertain or afraid.”

Rose continues to evolve and is as enthusiastic about volunteering as she was when she first became Miss Chinatown USA. She is also devoted to revitalizing Chinatown and encouraging visitors to return. She continues inspiring and motivating young Asian women to be our new generation of leaders. “I have a positive mindset and feel great joy and fulfillment from serving with love. My superpower is attracting wonderful people who are purposeful, compassionate, and competent to help make a better world.”

Rose Chung achieved a childhood dream which led to leadership in serving the greater good and providing hope.