Local attorney Lauren Akemi Sugai was crowned the 67th Cherry Blossom Festival Queen on Saturday night at the Sheraton Waikiki.
Sugai, who graduated in 2008 from Pearl City High School and holds bachelor’s, master’s and law degrees from the University of Hawaii at Manoa, works as a lawyer at Chong, Nishimoto, Sia, Nakamura and Goya LLLP.
“It means so much to me that this year’s theme is zenshin, meaning to progress,” Sugai said in a news release. “It reminds me of my humble beginnings of growing up in Waialua, and I’m excited for the opportunity to now represent the Japanese-American community on a broader scale.”
Sugai and this year’s 10 other contestants spent seven months attending cultural and professional development classes that covered subjects including business etiquette, tea ceremony, calligraphy, taiko, aikido, ikebana, public speaking and more. Saturday’s pageant included a taiko performance by the contestants, along with one-minute personal speeches and an impromptu question-and-answer phase while wearing authentic Japanese kimono.
Along with Sugai, Kayla Yuri Ueshiro was named first princess; Ueshiro also won the pageant’s Violet Niimi Oishi Scholarship, worth $5,000.
Ariel Kwai Ying Kiyomi Lee, Katrina Eiko Shimomura and Taylor Kaleimakanani Keiki Chee were named princesses. Chee also won the award for Miss Popularity; Reeann Eiko Kaleilani Minatoya was named Miss Congeniality.
Judges for this year’s pageant included Aaron Mahi, Jane Sawyer, Joanne Sakamaki, Karen Nakasone, Loretta Yajima, Michael Broderick and Sergio Alcubilla.