The first full-scale beauty contest held in the Islands was the Ka Palapala Beauty Pageant, for many years held annually on the University of Hawai‘i Mānoa campus in the Andrews Outdoor Theatre. The pageant, which started in 1937, was originally the idea of Neal Batchelor, an assistant editor of the student newspaper, Ka Leo, and Calvin McGregor, a student body councilor who eventually became a state judge. Later, the Ka Palapala student yearbook staff took over sponsorship of the pageant and developed it into an elaborate production.
The first Miss Hawai‘i contest was held in May 1948 in connection with the 49th State Fair. Irmgard Waiwaiole won the title but later abdicated her crown because she was unable to complete the necessary high school credits in time for the Miss America deadline. She was replaced by Yun Tau Zane, the runner-up in the Miss Hawai‘i contest. Miss Zane thus became Hawai‘i’s first representative in the Miss America contest, held in September 1948 in Atlantic City.
The first Hawai‘i-born Miss America was Debbye Turner, crowned in 1989. Miss Turner, born at Schofield Barracks, eventually moved with her parents to the Mainland and entered the Atlantic City competition as Miss Missouri.
By Robert C. Schmitt