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How the first Asian American Miss Texas is using TikTok and a law degree to change what it means to be a pageant queen

Kristie-Valerie Hoang   

How the first Asian American Miss Texas is using TikTok and a law degree to change what it means to be a pageant queen
  • Averie Bishop made history as the first Asian American Miss Texas winner.
  • The 25-year-old is a first generation law school graduate, and boasts a TikTok following of over 850K fans.

Averie Bishop is a first-generation law school graduate, a content creator, a nonprofit founder, a member of the Dallas Anti-Hate Advisory Council, and a proud owner of a green bell pepper she calls "Big Daddy."

Now, add pageant queen to that list.

Bishop, the newly-crowned "Miss Texas America," is the first Asian American woman to represent "The Lone Star State" in the Miss America organization pageant.

"I kept thinking in the back of my head, Texas would never crown someone like me," Bishop told Insider.

The three-time Miss America Texas contestant clinched her victory after years of documenting her law school journey at Southern Methodist University on TikTok, where she has amassed over 850K followers talking about everything from her courtroom outfit-of-the-day to breaking down the process behind a Supreme Court nomination.

18-year-old Texas resident Michelle Bui said she has followed Bishop's pageant journey through social media for years.

"I remember being really happy that she is giving attention to, and able to, represent the Asian community," said Bui. "It was like a feeling that was like, 'Oh finally,' when someone who even looks like you. I felt really happy and accomplished with her.

For decades, women of color were barred from competition

Across Miss Texas America's 85-year history, only three Black women have taken the first place title. In 2019, Chandler Foreman was the first woman to wear natural hair on the Miss Texas stage.

Miss America has welcomed state titleholders to its stage for over 100 years. But women of color were barred from competition for decades.

Up until 1940, the 7th rule of the early Miss America rulebook read, "contestants must be of good health and of the white race." Contestants were required to trace and list their ancestry on a biological data sheet. It would be another 30 years before the pageant saw a Black contestant.

19-year-old pageant fan Mahika Valluri echoes that feeling of feeling excluded. It wasn't until Nina Davuluri became the first South Asian woman to win Miss America in 2014 that Valluri felt like she could see a place for herself.

"You look at the past winners and you look at the demographic of the type of girls who are winning and you think, 'I don't fit that standard,'" said Valluri.

The pageant's institutionalized racism is just one factor pushing women of color away from competing in the Miss America circuit. Pageants are notoriously expensive to compete in: evening dresses, talent attire, Q&A outfits, can total tens of thousands of dollars in out-of-pocket expenses. Contestants must submit headshots, and the stage makeup required for competition is not cheap to acquire either.

For her first year of competition in 2019, Bishop wore an old prom dress. She did not hire a coach for training, opting instead for YouTube videos offering public speaking advice and stiletto walking tips.

"It took a lot of personal persuasion to convince myself that I didn't need all of those fancy glamorous gowns. I didn't need the airbrush tanning. I didn't need the perfect white teeth to be a contender and to be considered for the job of Miss Texas," Bishop said.

She placed first runner-up that year.

"I was so adamant about potentially getting a nose job one day because of how much I was bullied for the way that I looked," Bishop said. "But I decided at one point in my life that I look the way that I do for a reason. And that reason is that my ancestors fought through extreme poverty, through oppression, through all kinds of challenges in their life, for me to become the woman that I am today and to look the way that I do."

"Y'all means all"

A celebration of diversity is the cornerstone of Bishop's Miss Texas platform: "Y'all Means All."

"Texas can look like me, and it can look like you," Bishop said.

For one year, Bishop will be traveling to Title 1 schools throughout the state and giving lessons on diversity and inclusion.

"Conversations about racial animosity of violence, of discrimination … need to start at very young ages and children have the capacity to learn and understand how to treat people respectfully," Bishop said.

Bishop's platform also includes efforts to create pipelines for women of color in the Miss Texas organization. She plans to establish a diversity and inclusion chair that will create recruitment strategies that target small, rural communities, LGBTQ organizations on college campuses, and partnering with AAPI organizations across Texas.

"If I'm gonna be quite honest, the reason why I didn't compete was because I was intimidated and afraid of an organization that I did not see having anything to do with Asian American Pacific Islanders," Bishop said. "And I decided to make that change."

Bishop says she'll have a larger Miss Texas platform and presence due to her background as an influencer.

"[I want to] teach everyone that anyone can look the way that I do and still be able to live in the state of Texas and succeed in aspiring to their dreams," Bishop said.

A progressive Miss Texas

Texas is a majority-minority state, meaning that minority populations together compromise more than 50% of the state's population. In recent years it has also been home to controversial laws, including some of the most restrictive voting laws in the country, abortion "trigger laws," and book bans.

Pageant titleholders typically refrain from publicly voicing their political opinions. But Bishop's voice is clear — some of her most popular videos on her social accounts delve into politics.

In one video, Bishop applauds the bipartisanship behind the "Build Back Better" bill. In another, she tells her mother's immigration story.

@averiebishop What’s your immigration story? #istandwithimmigrants #asmr #study ♬ original sound - Aves

Bishop said she won Miss Texas America before a politically-conservative judges panel. During initial meetings with the Miss Texas America board, Bishop was expecting resistance. Instead, she found that they trusted her.

"I was expecting closed doors. Nobody wants to hear about diversity inclusion in Texas. Nobody cares about this Asian girl who stands up for political rights and human rights issues,'" Bishop said.

Bishop said the judges lauded her ability to navigate difficult conversations — a skill she credits to her legal background. In law school, Bishop worked in a legal clinic where she represented children and victims of domestic abuse.

The depositions and client interviews Bishop conducted translated to her current title, where she will be spending time with Texans who may not "have never seen a person of color their entire life."

"Many of us have grown up in silos without ever having walked out of our small town to consider different perspectives. When we bring other perspectives in, we become a more fruitful, more colorful and more vibrant community together," Bishop said.

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