Pageant with a difference
MRS CHINESE NZ COMPETITION PUTS WOMEN FIRST
THE search is on for Mrs Chinese New Zealand, but this is no ordinary pageant.
The women who enter will be judged not on their looks but on how well they relate to the other contestants.
Eva Chen, who is the chief executive of the Wellbeing Charitable Trust, is helping to organise the inaugural event.
It’s about empowering Chinese women who tend to hold the lowest position in the family, the Mt Albert resident says.
She came up with the idea after seeing a post on Facebook about Mrs Chinese Canada.
Most of the nine entrants have children, but not all are married, she says.
They pay $10 to sign up and then get together for eight weekend sessions preparing for the final event in August.
The women will receive tips on hair and makeup, posture and dance training.
‘‘We want the mums to feel good about themselves,’’ the Mt Albert resident says.
A video of each entrant’s family will be screened at the final event where they will talk about her attributes.
Shanshan Ge Harris, 30, is one of the contestants. She says it’s a privilege to be involved.
‘‘I’m a little bit unconventional. I have a 13-year-old step-daughter whose mother is also Chinese.
‘‘The idea of encouraging Chinese women to speak up is something I’m quite passionate about.
‘‘I think there’s also an underlying issue with Asian migrants who come to New Zealand and find it difficult to integrate into mainstream society,’’ Harris says.
The Ponsonby-based business banker has never entered a competition like this before but as the ANZ Toastmasters vice-president she’s used to speaking in public.
Chen says family pressure has stopped several women from getting involved in Mrs Chinese New Zealand.
‘‘Some mums submit their application and then a few days later they call us and say: ‘I want to withdraw’ because their parents or parents-in-law say no’.
‘‘The families say: ‘You’re not supposed to make yourself famous or be in the news. You’re just a housewife. Your job is looking after your kids’.’’
Under China’s one child policy, girls and boys have been raised as equals, the 35-year-old says.
But all that changes once they are married.
‘‘I’ve been saying to the mums: ‘You are not lower than your husband or anyone else. You are the last person anyone cares about in the family but it’s not your fault. It’s about culture’.’’
Chen, who is a mother-of-four, says she sometimes gets negative feedback when she tells Chinese people she runs a charitable trust.
Most Chinese women are taught not to express opinions and are expected to do as they are told, Harris says.
‘‘We need to learn from Kiwi culture to put our emotions into words.’’
Applications are still open for contestants.
The final event will be held at Lucky Star Chinese Restaurant in Papatoetoe on August 16.
Tickets are $50 and dinner included.
All proceeds from the event will go to the Child Cancer Foundation.
Email email@example.com for more information.
Mrs Chinese New Zealand co-organiser Eva Chen, with her 1-year-old son Marcus and contestant Shanshan Ge Harris.