Two FilAm beauty queens crowned with pageant honors

by Jay Domingo

Kimberly Layne | Photo eonline.com Ki’ilani Arruda | Photo newsbreak.com

NEW YORK – The Miss Universe Organization named two Filipino Americans the first runner up of Miss USA and Miss Teen USA beauty pageants.

Kimberly Layne, the reigning Miss Idaho, placed first runner-up behind Asya Branch during the Miss USA pageant held at Exhibition Center and the Soundstage at Graceland in Memphis, Tennessee, on Monday, November 9. Branch is the first black woman from her home state Mississippi to take the crown.

The other winner, Ki’ilani Arruda of Kauai, Hawaii, was crowned Miss Teen USA on Saturday, November 7, also held at the Graceland Exhibition Center. The competition was initially scheduled for the spring but postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic. Teens from all 50 states, including the District of Columbia, competed for the crown.

Miss USA 2020 First Runner-up

Layne was born in 1994, the daughter of a Filipina mother and an Irish father, who comes from a farming family in Nampa, Idaho. While a high school senior, she was crowned Miss Idaho Teen USA 2012 and pursued a career as a Boise model, Idaho.

She graduated from Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, with a degree in animal sciences and worked as a veterinary assistant at the Olde Town Animal Hospital in Southampton, New York. She is currently pursuing advanced degrees in public health and veterinary medicine from both the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and Washington State University in Pullman, Washington. She expects to graduate in 2021.

Layne was crowned Miss Idaho USA 2020 at the Special Events Center at Boise State University in Boise. She won a $10,000 scholarship and a $5,000 cash prize.

The 2020 Miss USA, the 69th installment of the pageant, was hosted by Akbar Gbaja-Biamila and Allie LaForce. The event was live and also featured a performance by Haley Reinhart while Cheslie Kryst and Christian Murphy served as backstage commentators. Kryst, who won Miss USA 2019, also crowned her successor at the end of the event.

Recently, Layne spoke about her biracial heritage in a video posted on YouTube.

Miss Teen USA 2020

Arruda, 18, is a freshman student studying molecular and cellular biology and minoring in Spanish at the University of Puget Sound. The older of three siblings, her sister Lea, and her brother Channing who has autism. Her brother has inspired Arruda to advocate for Autism Awareness. She recently received her Registered Behavior Technician License, according to The Garden Island.

She graduated from Island School this year with a 4.0 GPA, served as student body president, and was a varsity volleyball, swim, and track and field team member. She thanked her parents, her Filipina mother, Napualani, and her dad, Kaiopo Kealalio, for supporting her dreams. “They have really been the backbone of this whole entire experience,” she said.

PEP Philippines reports Arruda is the second of Filipino descent to win the crown. The first was actress Vanessa Minnillo-Lachey in 1998. According to CNN, she’s the second from Hawaii to win the title, the first since Kelly Hu in 1985.

PEP.ph also reports that Arruda revealed in an interview after the pageant that Catriona Gray is her favorite Miss Universe queen because she is part Filipino.

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

Watch Arruda’s victory walk down the runway in this Instagram post.

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