Safe return of Elizabeth Smart touches heart of Kaua’i’s Miss Hawaii-USA

SAN ANTONIO, Tex. – Elizabeth Smart’s safe return nine months after being kidnapped was especially emotional for Kaua’i’s Alicia Malia Michioka, Miss Hawaii-USA.

“I literally cried when I found out,” she said in an interview from historic San Antonio, Tex., where she has been participating in preliminary Miss USA 2003 pageant activities since March 9.

Michioka became personally involved with the effort to save missing children after being kidnapped on O’ahu three years ago at the age of 21. Despite her terror, she managed to keep her head and talk her abductor into letting her go.

The trauma left by the frightening experience has given Alicia a special understanding of what lies ahead for 15-year-old Elizabeth Smart.

“My heart goes out to her since she will need to deal with this for the rest of her life,” Alicia said.

Entering the Miss Hawaii-USA Pageant eventually helped Michioka deal with her own ordeal by becoming a spokesperson for Honolulu Police Department’s “M.A.I.L.E. Alert” and the Missing Children Center.

“After I was kidnapped, I realized how lucky I was to still have my life, when many cases like mine end up differently,” she said. Rather than ask, “Why?” she decided to try and help others.

She credits the pageant experience with helping her overcome her fears by speaking about them in her role as spokesperson for the two agencies.

“I can take my experience of being abducted at age 21 and the adversities I have faced and focus it on a greater purpose – saving lives,” she said.

During an interview with the Miss USA 2003 pageant judges, Michioka said she considered her involvement with the Children’s Center and M.A.I.L.E. Alert program her greatest accomplishment.

“It is such a rewarding feeling to do something good with the adversities I have faced in my life,” she said.

She also told the judges she feels the most difficult challenge females face today is maintaining integrity and good morals in the workplace.

“In competitive environments, many individuals are tempted to be dishonest in order to achieve their goals and dreams,” she said. “The challenge is not being dishonest, it is rebuilding the integrity inside!”

The scholarships Michioka won through the Miss Hawaii-USA Pageant helped her earn a double bachelor’s degree in Advertising and Journalism. Now an award-winning freelance journalist, she has also been an extra on “Melrose Place” and “Baywatch Hawaii” and co-hosted “Tiny TV,” a local television show.

In addition, she traveled to Asia after she was crowned Miss Hawai’i-USA to promote Hawai’i’s visitor and movie industries.

Alicia is the daughter of Blaine Michioka of Waipake and Lori Stilwell-Makaneole of Kapahi. She has two sisters, Justine and Sarah.

The Miss USA 2003 Pageant will air in Hawai’i at 8 p.m. Monday, March 24, on NBC-TV, Channel 8.

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