When I immigrated to America in 3rd grade, making friends was the biggest challenge I faced. Naively, I thought that in order to make friends, I had to fully assimilate myself into the white culture that surround me in order to be accepted.
For the past eight years, I can’t tell you how much I struggled internally trying to balance the new American identity I took on with my Asian identity. I distanced myself from the Asian stereotype as much as possible by degrading my own race and pretending that I was everything I wasn’t. The worst part of this whole situation is that it worked. My peers liked me more because I was similar to them. The more I rejected my heritage, the more similar I felt to my friends. I didn’t realize that through this conformity, I lost bits and pieces of my former self— the real part of me I can never truly get back.
It wasn’t until I moved to the city where I was forced to evaluate my values and reflect on who I truly wanted to be. In joining the Miss Chinese Chicago pageant, it not only helped me built my confidence up as a Chinese-American woman; it exposed me to other amazing, inspirational women that faced the same struggle growing up— and yet they still trudge on to accomplish big things as their true self.
Thanks to the MCC pageant, I had endless opportunities to participate in debate panels about the Asian American experience, partake in cultural events, support the people and our local community— something that I never had the chance to do and look forward to continue doing. In doing so, never have I felt more connected to my roots and heritage as I had today.
So I know now.
My name is 郑婉慧. I also go by Honey Tey. I am your 2018 Miss Chinese Chicago Second Princess. I am Chinese, Vietnamese, Malaysian, and American. But most of all, I am a proud Asian American woman. I’m still learning how to love this part of me, but I just hope that my nine year old self would be proud of the woman I choose to become too.
To learn more about her story, visit https://thisisyork.org/11355/features/under-the-monocle-honey-tey/
Or follow her on Instagram @honeyteyy