Jessica Lim would melt into the couch on Sunday evenings with her family when she was six years old to watch the cheers of fans and football players running across stadiums on TV. Her love for sports was evident from early on, but there was one detail that bothered her.
“I remember the news anchor, Connie Chung, being a very obvious Asian face on TV,” Lim said. “That’s when it struck me that (Asian-Americans on TV) are not common.”
Lim, who graduated from UCLA in 2011, did her part to represent Asian-American women in sports by playing in intramural football games and working for UCLA Athletics.
But in April, Lim found an unconventional way to spread her message – she decided to enter in a pageant to spread her message about the lack of Asian-American women in these fields.
“(The decision) was a bit spur of the moment,” Lim said. “I took it as an opportunity to grow as a person and tell my story to the world.”
Lim had never worn a crown or elegant dresses, but she was crowned Miss Asian America at the 31st Annual Miss Asian Global and Miss Asian America pageant. The pageant was held on Aug. 20 in San Francisco.
She said she thinks she won because she had a unique platform speech to present, which focused on a topic which was close to her heart.
“I challenge the audience to mentor and hire the next generation of Asian females who are pursuing their passions in sports and media,” Lim said in her winning speech.
Lim said she had about five training sessions leading up to the pageant. The sessions gave her a chance to practice how to walk confidently, improve on her speech and bond with the other delegates.
In the evening gown round, Lim said she walked across the stage in a floor length gold dress with purple and silver rhinestones.
“I felt amazing walking in my evening gown,” Lim said. “My parents had both helped me pick it and my goal was to walk out with a big smile and show off the rhinestone detailing on the side of the dress.”
Lim also wore a bright pink qipao, a traditional Chinese dress, to represent her ethnicity.
Lim said she never thought she would be representing women in sports wearing a feminine evening gown and high heels. When she was younger, she would discuss the technical aspects and strategies involved in professional football, while watching TV with her father, she said.
Her parents were always supportive regardless of how she spread her message, but Lim said she thinks not all Asian-American parents feel the same way. She said she thinks family traditions and values restrain some women to pursue the careers they want.
“Asian-American women (aren’t usually) in front of the camera or involved in the creative side of the business,” Lim said. “They are present, but only in the bylines such as in business, human resources or the legal aspects.”
When Lim worked for UCLA Athletics as a second-year, she developed marketing strategies for the UCLA gymnastics and softball team, she said.
Lim would be able to count the number of Asian-Americans working in her office. At UCLA Athletics, about half the marketing office consisted of Asian-Americans, but in the professional world, it’s much fewer, she said.
Lim’s friends said they are proud of her for presenting her beliefs. Grace Dong, whom Lim met during pageant training, said Lim was a firm contender and a supportive friend.
Dong said once during training, she had been wearing heels for 16 hours straight. Jessica saw how uncomfortable she was and quickly gave her a comforting hug.
Dong added she admires Lim’s confidence and quirky sense of humor, and is glad she took a stance on an issue she has felt strongly about for years.
Kaitlin Collins, a UCLA alumna who has known Lim since they were resident assistants living in Dykstra Hall, said Lim’s eloquence and friendliness made her feel at home immediately, even though Collins was shy.
Collins said she admires the attitude with which Lim approached the pageant and is now managing two jobs, to satisfy both her sports and media dreams.
Lim currently works for the San Francisco Giants, where she is part of the game entertainment promotion team, Lim said. She also works in digital advertising as an account manager, to fulfill her media ambitions.
However, Lim said this pageant will always be a cherished memory in her life. She recalled one of her favorite moments in the pageant was when they were were waiting for the scores to get calculated and a guest singer performed the song “Treasure” by Bruno Mars.
“The curtain opened and all 29 of us started dancing to the song,” Lim said. “It was time to celebrate, regardless of whether we won or lost.”