How a Fairfax Co. student’s pageant win made history

Ashley Wang
Ashley Wang, who became Miss Virginia Teen USA. (Courtesy Ashley Wang)
Ashley Wang, the winner of Miss Virginia Teen USA. (Courtesy Ashley Wang)
Oakton High School student Ashley Wang. (Courtesy Ashley Wang)
Ashley Wang

Oakton High School sophomore Ashley Wang’s expectations for her first ever pageant were so low she said she didn’t tell any of her friends — she even forgot to tell her brother.

The Fairfax County teen has been a competitive dancer since she was five years old. Back then, her mom’s friend recommended she try a pageant once she learned that Wang may want to try something different.

While some other contestants had coaches or were practicing at home, Wang “just kind of went with the flow.”

Wang, who is also a member of the Oakton dance team, made history last month, becoming the first Chinese American and second-ever Asian person to be crowned Miss Virginia Teen USA. Now, she’ll compete nationally in the Miss Teen USA competition this fall.

“When I was younger, I feel like I had no role models to look up to that were like me, Asian American, with similar struggles and experiences,” Wang said. “I’m just so happy that I can be that role model for other people. That was really important to me personally.”

The pageant included an interview, and then the contestants walked on stage during several portions of the event, including an activewear section and gown section, Wang said.

In the finals, she said, there’s an onstage question. Wang was asked about the positives and negatives of social media.

“There are a lot of negatives with social media in the way that it creates really difficult standards to meet, and unrealistic standards for a lot of teens,” Wang said. “My goal is to utilize that tool for good and try to prevent some of those negatives.”

Several of Wang’s friends have been impacted by her historic victory, she said, urging her to use her platform to “embrace and talk about the struggles, but also the amazing things about our culture.”

But because Wang said she hadn’t mentioned her plans to attend the pageant, many of those friends found out about her success through the school system’s announcement.

Around 3 a.m., after the pageant, Wang texted the coach of Oakton’s dance team, who echoed her excitement. The team’s motto, B.E.S.T., which stands for “better every single time,” helped change Wang’s perspective.

“Just trying to improve myself every single time instead of trying to win, because winning is not always the best outcome,” Wang said.

While Wang said she would consider other pageants in the future, it’s not her sole focus. After graduating, she’s planning to attend college and study biochemistry to become a cosmetic chemist. Wang said it’s a goal stemming from when she first began exploring skin care in middle school.

Still, she characterized the pageant experience as “so much more fun than I imagined it to be, because the other girls were so amazing.”

And, she said, after she was announced as the winner, she made sure to FaceTime her brother.

Scott Gelman

Scott Gelman is a digital editor and writer for WTOP. A South Florida native, Scott graduated from the University of Maryland in 2019. During his time in College Park, he worked for The Diamondback, the school’s student newspaper.

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