Trip to Texas an adventure for Kaua’i’s Miss USA contestant Alicia Michioka

“Where’s Sandra Bullock?”

That’s what Miss Hawaii-USA, Kaua’i’s Alicia Malia Michioka, has felt like asking ever since she arrived in San Antonio, Tex., where the 52nd Annual Miss USA Pageant is being held.

San Antonio was also the filming location for much of the movie, “Miss Congeniality.” Bullock starred in the “Cinderella with a twist” tale as an “unpolished, unkempt” FBI agent assigned to masquerade as a pageant contestant to flush out a killer.

In the process, she is reluctantly transformed into a swan, wins the pageant, gets her killer AND her man.

Michioka said in some ways she feels at times like they’re repeating “Miss Congeniality.”

“If you’ve seen the movie, everything clicks,” Michioka said. “They have us on the same stage; we’ve been on the River Walk. We even have the same choreographer!”

It didn’t take long for her to realize, though, that the national pageant was a totally different experience from the state event, she said.

“First, the pageant in Hawai’i wasn’t a televised production. Second, in Hawai’i we were dealing with 15 contestants. Here there are 51,” she said. “With that many girls, it takes lots of organization, lots of volunteers, lots of people working and busting their butts for us,” she said. “There’s also a lot of stress, not among contestants, but behind stage just to make us look beautiful.”

At the relatively laid-back state pageant, contestants showed up on the day of the pageant for one rehearsal where they learned their walking and coordination for the opening number.

“Here it takes weeks, that’s the biggest difference. Hopefully the title will mean even more to us because we’ve worked so hard for it. It didn’t come easy,” she said.

Despite the hard work, Michioka has been enjoying everything she’s experienced since March 9, when pageant events began.

“It’s been great,” she said. “The weather isn’t very cold, very similar to the temperatures in Hawai’i right now.”

It’s also not very humid in San Antonio. “I’ve been having a lot of ‘good hair days,'” she laughs.

Another plus has been the attitude of her fellow contestants.

“I was expecting the worst, that they would be catty and competitive but I’ve been pleasantly surprised,” she said. “Of course they’re competitive. This is a competition. But most are mature enough to look beyond that and realize that, ‘Hey, you know what? We’re all in the same boat.’ “

Contestants’ grueling daily regimen begins with breakfast around 7 a.m. “We’re going all day and don’t get back to the hotel until 10:30 or 11 p.m.,” Michioka said.

Days include a lot of pre-taping and TV production work and rehearsals for Monday’s televised pageant show. But there are fun activities as well. Contestants have been to a basketball game, gone to a rodeo, and even raced armadillos.

Tonight’s Presentation Show at the San Antonio Municipal Auditorium won’t be televised in its entirety but there will be a full house of spectators, including supporters, judges and the general public. The show features the swimsuit and evening gown events, and will most likely determine who the ten finalists will be.

“I’m not nervous yet but I think when I heard the crowd and see my family out there, the adrenaline will kick in and the nerves might start going,” Michioka said.

Like most of the girls, she has been focused so far on getting ready for the pageant rather than its outcome. The pageant producer has stressed to all contestants that many past contenders who didn’t win the title ended up becoming very successful in different fields through opportunities brought their way by their few seconds on national television.

Whoever does win will have a full year of traveling and carrying out the mission of the Miss USA Pageant, including its most recent addition, the fight against breast cancer.

Michioka said if she should win, she would have no problem speaking out about breast cancer as well as spreading her own personal message about the effort to save missing children.

“Breast cancer is an important issue because it’s one of the biggest health risks facing women,” she said.

But there are still several more days of work, stress and activities ahead before Miss USA is selected on Pageant Night and while Michioka is enjoying the experience, she still misses Kaua’i and Hawai’i.

“Everyone has been so sweet and I miss them a lot,” she said. “I’ve gotten flowers and all kinds of stuff from so many people like Therese Jasper and Olena Rubin (Miss Kauai 2003). There are so many people out there rooting for me. I definitely can’t wait to come home.”

Michioka said in all, it’s been a really good experience for her but she realizes just how lucky she is to be there.

“So many girls in Hawai’i would love to be in my position right now,” she said. “I’m not just here to represent Hawai’i or doing it for myself. I’m doing it for those girls who want to be here but can’t because only one gets to go.”

Rita De Silva can be reached at 245-3681 Ext. 241 or

Miss USA pageant will air at 8 p.m. Monday, March 24, on NBC, Channel 8. The public can still vote online for Alicia in the Miss Photogenic competition at


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