Growing up with three older brothers, Huon Huon often felt like the black sheep. Since she was the only girl, her brothers frequently teased her about being adopted. During Cambodian classical ballet she was always assigned to be the male character because she was a little bit taller than the rest of the other girls.
"I had such a complex with that," she said with a smile on her face. "I really thought I was meant to be a boy at that point, so I stopped doing it."
Since then, Huon has figured out who she is and what she wants.
She no longer questions her identity and has blossomed into a woman. She won the title of Miss Utah in November 2005, and she leaves this Sunday for the East Coast to begin preparations for the April 21, 2006, Miss USA Pageant in Baltimore.
"Before Nov. 12, I had my goals set and my life planned out," she said. "But as of right now I can honestly say I don't know which direction I'll go."
Going into Miss Utah, Huon was somewhat concerned about her ethnicity because Utah has never had a minority representative.
"It really worked to my benefit," she said. "I am glad the judges were able to overcome that."
However, Huon is not only the first minority to represent Utah, she is also the first Cambodian USA title holder, said Abbie Scott, state director for the Miss Utah USA pageant.
"I now realize the magnitude of her winning the Miss Utah title for the Cambodian community," said Kaony Huon, Huon's second oldest brother.
Coming out to BYU and competing for Miss Utah is a huge accomplishment because the Cambodian culture is very family oriented and close knit, Scott said. Many of the Cambodian communities have asked Huon to appear at different events nationwide.
In preparation for Miss USA, Huon's schedule is jam-packed; therefore, she is taking this semester off. She spends a few days each week attending interviews and getting in shape. She also makes two to three appearances a week at various charity events. She is a big proponent of breast cancer awareness. Huon also attends promotional appearances and visits elementary schools throughout Utah as well.
In addition, attaining a custom-designed, tailored wardrobe is a top priority. And although service hours are not required, Huon spends a substantial amount of her time performing community service.
"Huon doesn't really have time to do school and prepare to compete in Miss USA," Scott said. "Doing both would definitely take its toll."
Whether she wins the crown or not Huon said she intends to finish school. She is majoring in political science, with an emphasis in international relations. One of her of her goals is to attend the J. Reuben Clark Law School.
"Before Miss Utah, school was her main priority," said Haydee Cifuentes, Huon's best friend. "She is dedicated beyond what I think she would have to be dedicated."
Huon said she is very interested in politics and greatly admires Condoleezza Rice.
"I don't plan on being in such a high position as she is, but I really do admire her hard work and dreams in fulfilling that," she said.
Winning Miss Utah was a turning point in her life, but her decision to get baptized at age 16 was an even bigger turning point.
"It really affected my decision to go to BYU and it affects my decisions all together," she said. "Every decision I make is with the gospel in mind."
Huon is the only member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in her family, but she said they are very supportive in every aspect of her life.
"She has always shown dedication to the gospel and is very dynamic and friendly," said Rick Kinateder, Huon's bishop for the past two years.
Despite Huon's accomplishments and sheer beauty, she has remained down to earth and genuine.
"She was pretty humbled by winning Miss Utah," said Sean Sullivan, a BYU business management major, who has been Huon's good friend for the last couple of years. "I remember it took awhile for it to sink in. Weeks after she won she was still grasping the fact that she is Miss Utah now."
Her best friend Cifuentes said she was worried that winning the title and being in the spotlight would go to her head. She thought Huon might forget the basics and fundamentals of who she is.
"I have been above and beyond impressed on how she has completely stayed very level headed," Cifuentes said. "She is humble, hard working and continually strives to develop Huon as a woman and not just Huon as Miss Utah."
Huon's friends, family and colleagues have high hopes for her when she competes for the Miss USA crown in April.
"We hope and pray she wins," said Kaony Huon, her brother. "I know she is destined to do great things, and Miss Utah is the perfect example of what she is capable of. We hope it will open up bigger opportunities for her."
Abbie Scott, the director for Miss Utah USA, said the judges are looking for a businesswoman with classic beauty. They want a woman who is well mannered, well cultured, has high morals, is well educated and charistmatic.
"Huon emulates all of those qualities and in that sense the odds are in her favor," Scott said.
Huon leaves on April 2 to New York to compete for the title of Miss USA. The competition begins the moment she steps off the plane. She said the competition is much like being on camera, and she has to be on her best behavior - at all times.
However, Huon said she knows if she doesn't win it is not the end of the world.
"It is so easy, within the juxtaposition of things, to lose yourself," she said. "I am content with my Miss Utah title, and I love representing the state of Utah. I am not going to sell myself short though, I am going to give it my all."
By Jessica Mallard - 28 Mar 2006
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