By GWEN MURANAKA, Rafu Senior Editor
Kaitlyn Emiko Chu, 24-year-old graduate of USC and a product designer at Apple, was crowned Nisei Week Queen on Saturday night at the 81st annual Nisei Week Coronation at the Aratani Theatre in Little Tokyo.
Chu represents the Orange County Nikkei Coordinating Council.
“It’s been such an amazing experience and it’s a huge honor to be this year’s Nisei Week queen,” Chu said in an interview with The Rafu Shimpo.
“It was pure surprise at first and then I was just overwhelmed by the amount of support and love from my friends and family here and from my fellow court members.
“I’m looking forward to the opportunity of being queen. I would love to take this opportunity to encourage the younger generations to learn more about their culture and more about art and be really creative.”
Chu’s mother, Holly, said she was caught very much by surprise when Kaitlyn first floated the idea of becoming a queen candidate. It was 20 years ago that Kaitlyn entered the Nisei Week Baby Show, and they hadn’t thought about engaging in such a public showcase since then.
“We asked her, ‘Are you sure,’ because this was something out of her comfort zone,” Holly said. “For her age, she’s very aware of community issues, and I think she has a solid foundation to make a real difference through this platform.”
Her father, Chris, was beaming with pride as several rounds of photos were being taken after the coronation.
“She grew up playing basketball. I was involved with her in [scouting], and she was always involved in what was happening all through school. Those were special times,” he said. “But this, Nisei Week, she really did this by herself.”
Holly added that when the initial excitement subsides, there will be the challenge of time management, to balance her work at Apple with the demanding schedule of a Nisei Week Queen.
“She’s known for being very active with friends and in the community,” she explained. “We’re here to support her, 100 percent.”
Chu was also joined by her younger sister, Kara.
Sara Emiko Kubo was named First Princess. She is a 26-year-old graduate of Cal State Fullerton and represents East San Gabriel Valley Japanese Community Center.
Nancy Izumi Chin, 26, representing Pasadena Japanese Cultural Institute, was named Miss Tomodachi.
The 2023 Nisei Week Court will represent the Japanese American community at events throughout Southern California, as well as travel to San Francisco, Hawaii and Japan.
Also serving on the court are:
Isabella Rose Polizzotto, 24, representing Gardena Evening Optimists;
Kamalani “Kama” Higashiyama, 25, representing the Japanese Restaurant Association of America;
Aiko Marie Matsumura Dzikowski, 26, representing the Venice Japanese Community Center and Venice-West Los Angeles JACL;
Kaili Mika Inouye; 24, representing the San Fernando Valley Japanese American Community Center.
A full wrap-up of the Nisei Week Coronation will be in the Tuesday edition of The Rafu Shimpo.
Photos by MIKEY HIRANO CULROSS/Rafu Shimpo