Crystal Lee is a graduate of Stanford University earning both her MA in Communications and her BA in Human Biology in 2013. She earned the title of Miss California 2013 and was First Runner Up to Miss America 2014.
The last two standing contestants were Asian American!
As one of the growing number of woman in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) field of study, she advocates interventions, education reform, and policies that help with drawing in and retaining women in these fields.
Crystal recently answered a few questions about her Miss America experience and future plans.
ASIANCE: Tell us what inspired you to pursue the Miss America crown.
Crystal: I was Miss California’s Outstanding Teen in 2008 and earned a few thousands dollars in college scholarships. I learned about the mission of the program to empower women through a unique sisterhood that celebrates healthy competition, style, fitness, service, and scholastic achievement. I wanted to be Miss America ever since I was 16 years old and first started competing.
ASIANCE: How has your life changed after participating in the Miss America pageant?
Crystal: I was still a college student two weeks before I became Miss California. Now life is just as busy, but in a different way. Much of my day-to-day work consists of preparing for outward appearances, speeches, and performances, whereas before it was classes, studying, and more studying. I’m more active on social media now as I have a public responsibility to represent this state in the Miss America program.
Miss America 2014 Crowning Moment
ASIANCE: Miss New York, Nina Davuluri, became the first Miss America winner of Indian-American descent, which led to racial and ethnic comments being posted on Twitter. How did that affect you and what was your initial reaction to the bigoted comments being hurled at her via the Internet?
Crystal: I was disappointed in my fellow Americans who tweeted those ignorant comments but also not too surprised, as the cloak of anonymity makes people behave in ways they’d never behave in real life. The whole incident is a reminder that there remains lots of work to do. There’s still a lot of progress to be made. But when life gives you lemons, make lemonade. This inspires me to work harder to be the best role model and leader I can be. I’d like to show those commenters that Asian Americans are as committed to diversity, positive change, and leadership as anyone else.
ASIANCE: As a role model for young Asian American women, what are some societal issues that you’re currently focusing attention on addressing through your increased public profile?
Crystal: My personal platform this year is to encourage girls and young women to consider pursuing STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) fields. We don’t have many women in STEM industries and I’m an advocate for interventions, education reform, and policies that help with drawing in and retaining women in these careers. I was Miss Silicon Valley before I was Miss California and I interned at a number of tech startups. The imbalanced ratio of men v. women engineers was eye opening.
ASIANCE: You’ve expressed your passion for science and technology on many occasions. What are your own career goals now that you’ve graduated from Stanford?
Crystal: I’ll be working at Google’s enterprise team in Mountain View working in business development and sales in Google’s Large Customer Sales division in August.
I will one day start my own company. As for possible startup ventures, I have many ideas. I’m particularly interested in the consumer health space but I am also interested in learning more about housing and real estate.