Year of milestones for Miss Hawai'i
By Zenaida Serrano
Advertiser staff writer
By Zenaida Serrano
Without a trace of makeup on her face, her hair pulled back in a low bun and dressed in HPD blue, Sheri Lynn Haunani Canopin is hardly the vision of a glossy pageant contestant. But that's what she'll be on Friday, as she and 13 other women compete for the Miss Hawai'i title at the Hilton Hawaiian Village.
Officer and a beauty queen? Even fellow officers of the tough — albeit petite — cop had doubts about Canopin's dreams of winning a crown.
"I actually don't think they took me seriously at first," said Canopin, 24, from Kahalu'u. " ... But the guys are very supportive now."
She's the first Honolulu Police Department officer to compete in the pageant's 58-year history. (Canopin was also a contestant in 2004 — before she joined the force.)
It's one of several milestones for the Miss Hawai'i scholarship program this year, said Ryan Brown, executive director of the Miss Hawaii Organization.
"There are a lot of new things going on," Brown said. Among them:
The Miss Hawai'i contestants come from diverse backgrounds, making for an exciting show, Brown said.
"And this year, more than 70 percent of those running are brand new (to Miss Hawai'i)," he said.
First-time contestants include Natasha Akau, 23, of Kaimuki.
"I've just been really excited," said Akau, who isn't a stranger to winning a title. In 2004, Akau won the Miss Aloha Hula title at the Merrie Monarch Festival.
Also vying for the crown are: Angela Everhart, Ana Tsukano, Pilialoha Gaison, Ashley Layfield, Nicole Cabral, Jasmine Ornellas, Rebecca Ynigues, Keaolani Mento, Jill-Lesly Pascua, Brandie Cazimero and M. Kauionalani Ramos.
"It's one of those years when there really is no front-runner," Brown said. "They're all beautiful, they're all talented and any of the 14 could take it."
This year, the scholarships and tuition grants and waivers going to the winning contestants approach $500,000, Brown said.
Canopin, the police officer, said the scholarship program opens doors for participants.
"A lot of the contestants are attending school, so it gives us an opportunity to further our education," she said.
Canopin said she's had to use physical force in her job processing arrestees into the Honolulu holding facility. She wants to earn a master's degree in organizational change and to rise in the ranks at HPD.
Akau hopes to finish medical school to become a doctor. "This is also an opportunity to be a great role model for the girls in Hawai'i, and even around the world," Akau said.
The winner of Miss Hawai'i will go on to compete in the Miss America pageant, which will likely be in January in Las Vegas, Brown said.
Reach Zenaida Serrano at firstname.lastname@example.org.