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by Jamie Thomas

Gaison is an older sister to three brothers, an athlete, a dancer, an aspiring firefighter, and a junior business major at HPU. Needless to say, this young Kane‘ohe resident has a lot on her plate these days, and she is only at the beginning of a very demanding year.

Between dancing in “Creation—a Polynesian Journey” at the Princess Kaiulani Resort Hotel in Waikiki five nights a week and preparing for the Miss America preliminaries this fall, Pilialoha has little down time. She has a trainer to get her toned, a speech coach to work on her public voice, an assistant to get her to rehearsal and more.

Being a beauty queen changes your everyday life, Gaison said. “It has to. I drive a car that says Miss Hawai‘i 2006 on both sides! When I’m in traffic, people are always waving or honking,” she explained. “I just smile and wave back. I have been given an opportunity to represent Hawai‘i, and now I have to fulfill it. You have to be approachable.”

If becoming a public figure is part of the job, so is learning to communicate with different media outlets.
“For lots of people, [dealing with the media,] is outside their comfort zone, but if you’re a good listener and answer their questions directly, and so long as you acknowledge the people that have helped you along the way, whether sponsors, teachers or family, it can help you build lasting relationships. It opens doors for the future, whatever that may be.

“ It’s an ongoing thing and throughout the year you have a lot of opportunities to make mistakes and learn from them,” Gaison added.

A 2001 Kamehameha Schools graduate, Gaison feels that, unlike the girls she will be competing against in the Miss America pageant, she has unique attributes.

“I represent everything Hawai‘i is known for,” she said, and added that, of course, “I have to live up to the expectations people have of Hawai‘i, its people, and its culture.”

Gaison will be competing against 14 girls. For some competitors, this is actually less than their state competitions.

In all, the Miss Hawai‘i Organization awarded $415,435 in scholarships and cash grants to this year’s contestants. Of that, HPU contributed $40,375 in scholarships.

“ HPU plays a huge role in the Miss Hawai‘i Organization,” said Gaison, “They are so blessed to have HPU as a sponsor.”

“ HPU has put so many girls through school–debt free. Even in the preliminary rounds, scholarships are awarded.”

Gaison received a total of five years of scholarship at HPU. After her year as Miss Hawai‘i she will be able to finish her BSBA and still have four years to complete her master’s degree.


Photo of Pilialoha Gaison by Rick Bernico



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