Tori Angela Nishinaka-Leon was crowned the 2014 Nisei Week Queen on Saturday, August 9, during the Nisei Week Japanese Festival’s coronation event at the Japan America Theatre in Little Tokyo.
Former 2013 Nisei Week Queen Lauren Iwata passed on her reign to Nishinaka-Leon, whose parents are Bernard E. Leon, Jr. and Vicky Leon of Los Angeles.
Five other ladies also took center stage to compete for the title of the 2014 Nisei Week Queen including: First Princess Lindsey Emiko Sugimoto, Miss Tomadachi Ashley Akemi Arikawa, Princess Tiffany Akemi Hashimoto, Princess Melissa Sayuri Kozono, and Princess Dominique Ariadne Mashburn.
Five judges selected Nishinaka-Leon, who represented the Pasadena Japanese Cultural Institute. In her 2-minute speech she talked about obon odori and how this cultural tradition introduced her to Japanese American community.
Since this cultural awareness, she looks forward to “obon-hopping” each summer. Nishinaka-Leon is 24 years old and graduated from Occidental College with a bachelor’s degree in psychology. She plans on pursuing a career in optometry.
The event featured the six candidates in an opening Japanese dance, speech, modern dance, evening gown (by Tadashi Shoji), and question/answer.
The dynamic co-hosts of the evening were actor Tamilyn Tomita, and ABC Eyewitness News Anchor David Ono. The Japan America Theater was “grooving to the music” of Sheldon Reynolds, former lead guitarist and vocalist for Earth, Wind, and Fire, who provided the night’s special entertainment.
“This was an entertaining evening that brought together many community members, family of the candidates, and visiting dignitaries from Japan,” said Masao “Mike” Okamoto, Nisei Week Foundation President.
“Congratulations to the new queen, Tori, and her court, Lindsey, Ashley, Tiffany, Melissa, and Dominique who all did an outstanding job. I look forward to working with all of you this year,” said Okamoto.