By GWEN MURANAKA
Rafu English Editor
Lani Kume Nishiyama, 24, was crowned 2010 Nisei Week Queen at the 70th Annual Nisei Week Coronation Saturday evening at the Japan America Theater. Nishiyama, representing the West LA Japanese American Citizens League and the Venice Japanese Community Center.
Kelli Toshiye Teragawa, 24, was named first princess and Jamie Joyce Hagiya, 25, was selected as Miss Tomodachi. The rest of the 2010 court includes: Brynn Nakamoto, Christy Sakamoto, Lauren Terumi Weber, and Erin Reiko Yokomizo.
“I’m feeling really excited, I can’t believe I’ve come this far and actually won this title, but I also feel like the rest of this court is going to be absolutely amazing,” said Nishiyama. “I feel like we’re going to change the community this year and really make a difference.”
“I hope to bring awareness about Japanese American community, Nisei Week and all of its organizations in Little Tokyo and bringing everybody outside of our community in because I think there needs to be an awareness about it because people really have no idea about our history.”
Nishiyama, a graduate of USC, is currently studying acting at the Wayne Dvorak Acting Studio. Her grandfather, Robert Taira, is the late founder of King’s Hawaiian Bakery and Nishiyama talked about her love of food and cooking in her opening speech.
Nishiyama’s parents Stella and Wally Miyamura, beamed as they talked about their daughter. They described Lani as a born performer who would dance and sing Whitney Houston as a kid.
“We’re very proud, we told her she’s a winner already, it doesn’t matter if you win or lose, it’s just the experience of it,” said Wally. “I’m more shook up than she is.”
A sold out crowd was loud and raucous, cheering for their favorite candidate, even being asked by emcee Tamlyn Tomita to refrain from using the cowbells and other noisemakers they had brought.
The Saturday evening coronation featured the suggestively playful banter of emcees David Ono and Tomita. The evening commenced with the candidates singing “Hanamizuki” in beautiful kimonos with Japanese umbrellas, then continued with the girls displaying their verbal communication skills by answering an impromptu question and entertaining the audience of 800 with a fun and lively dance routine entitled “We Love LA!” set to the song “California Girls” by pop singer Katy Perry.
The candidates sang, walked, danced and smiled their way through an evening of pageantry leading up to the finale where they all gathered together in glowing, white Tadashi evening gowns, awaiting the verdict.
When Nishiyama’s name was announced, they all smiled and embraced the newly crowned 70th Nisei Week Queen.
The judges for the Coronation were jazz pianist, David Benoit; former Nisei Week Queen Tish Okabe Kato; American Airlines District Sales Manager Alice Kikuchi; President of the Japan Business Association of Southern California, Yuichi Okura; and attorney Sandy Sakamoto.
On Sunday, the 2010 Nisei Week Court will greet thousands of spectators at the Grand Parade which begins at 5:30 p.m. Nishiyama said she is looking forward to riding on the parade float with the rest of her court. After Nisei Week, the Queen and Court will represent the festival at community events throughout the year including trips to Hawaii and Japan.
“It’s been a blessing, I’ve made six wonderful friends for life that’s unbreakable,” said Nishiyama.