Hawaii’s Filipino-American beauty Ki’ilani Arruda crowned Miss Teen USA

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Ki’ilani Arruda crowned Miss Teen USA
Hawaii’s Ki’ilani Arruda is now Miss Teen USA 2020. Photo from Miss Teen USA organization.

Filipino-American beauty queen Ki’ilani Arruda of Kauai, Hawaii has been crowned Miss Teen USA 2020 in Memphis, Tennessee.

The Miss Hawaii Teen titleholder born to a Filipino mother earned the USA crown besting the other states’ representatives in the competition that was streamed live on November 7, 2020, from Elvis Presley’s mansion in Graceland.

The 38th edition of Miss Teen USA, held with strict social-distancing protocols in place to protect pageant hopefuls from the spread of the COVID-19 disease, asked a pandemic-related question in the final Q&A portion: “What has experiencing a global pandemic taught you about life?”

The 19-year-old Arruda answered:

“Well, of course, this global pandemic is very unprecedented and has taught me a lot about life. For me, it has especially taught me how to appreciate my family. I got to spend so much time with my family, my little sister, my little brother. I love them dearly, and I know that soon, in spring, I will be going into college, and I won’t have those precious moments to share with them,”

“So really, it’s just to cherish those moments. And it’s so honorable I get to represent my home of Hawaii, so just being at home is so wonderful. Thank you.”

In a virtual press conference, the new Miss Teen USA says she looks up to Catriona Gray, her favorite Miss Universe.

“I’m a little biased towards Catriona because I am half-Filipino myself,” she said. “Her reign was so amazing, and I’ve always looked up to her as a role model,” Arruda added.

Ki’ilani Arruda is currently studying Molecular and Cellular Biology at the University of Puget Sound, according to the Miss Hawaii USA website. She advocates for Autism Awareness and has recently received her Registered Behavior Technician License.

The beauty pageant winner was chosen to be the first to wear the Miss Teen USA “Power of Hope” crown which features “motifs of petals, leaves and vines, crafted in 18-karat gold and set with white diamonds” by a panel of judges including TikTok star Sara Echeagaray, entrepreneur Iman Oubou, Miss America 2019 Nia Franklin, and two former winners Miss Teen USA 2011 Danielle Doty and Miss Teen USA 2014 K. Lee Graham. Miss Oregon Teen USA Shayla Montgomery was first runner-up, while Miss Georgia Teen USA Shayla Jackson was second runner-up.

Kiʻilani Arruda is the second Miss Teen USA of Filipino descent after Vanessa Minnillo-Lachey won the crown in 1998. She is also the second Hawaiian to win the crown for Miss Teen USA after actress Kelly Hu in 1985.

Beauty queens with Filipino heritage have been crowned in international pageants, including, Miss Universe Japan runner-up Yuki Sonoda who proudly declared her Filipino roots, and Filipino-Kiwi beauty queen Arielle “Ari” Keil who made history as the first transgender woman to win the Miss Intercontinental New Zealand pageant.

SEND CONGRATULATIONS in the comments below to Hawaii’s Filipino-American beauty Ki’ilani Arruda for winning the Miss Teen USA crown.

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Margo Hannah De Guzman Quadra
Margo is a voracious reader - some might even say she reads too much for her own good. She majored in BS Psychology and hopes to become a forensic psychologist one day. She’s also an aspiring writer, mental health advocate, and a staunch believer of equality.