In the first pageant either ever entered, Jonelle Layfield (right, and sister of the reigning Miss Hawaii) is crowned Miss Hawaii USA while Emma Wo wins the title of Miss Hawaii Teen USA.

Sarah Pacheco
Friday - December 21, 2007
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There they are, the two newly crowned queens, Jonelle Layfield, left, and Emma Wo
There they are, the two newly crowned queens, Jonelle Layfield, left, and Emma Wo

The Miss Hawaii USA and Miss Teen Hawaii USA 2008 pageants will be known as the rookie sweep. All the contestants on the stage at the Sheraton Waikiki Ballroom dazzled the audience with their gorgeous personalities and stunning beauty.

Non-stop hoots and whistles erupted from all corners of the room as each contestant strutted down the runway.

During the brief intermission, all anyone could talk about was how glad they were not to be in the judges’ seats - finding a winner was going to be tough.

In the end, Jonelle Layfield, 23, and Emma Wo, 17, beat out some fierce competition last Sunday night, showing girls everywhere in Hawaii that dreams are possible if you believe so.

“You never know what you can do until you try. Really,” Jonelle advises. “I didn’t even think I would win, just because it was my first time out there. But you just have to go into everything 100 percent and put your mind to it. Then you really can do anything.”

Emma Wo wowed 'em in the gown competition
Emma Wo wowed ‘em in the gown competition

Emma laughs before sighing in recollection, “It really comes down to believing in yourself and knowing that you can win and that you have the ability.

“It’s funny - toward the top five, I wasn’t nervous anymore. I was nervous throughout the whole thing, but I thought this is such a great experience, if I get fourth runner up, first runner up or if I win, I’m gonna take something with me.”

Emma did take the diamond-encrusted crown passed on to her by fellow Punahou senior and homeroom friend Serena Karnagy. “She’s amazing,” Emma says of the beauty who placed in the top 15 at the Miss Teen USA 2007 pageant. “She gave (everyone) the best advice: ‘If you don’t own that stage, someone else will do it.’ I really took that to heart because it’s so true. I really had that confidence, that strength and power you need to succeed. That gave me a boost.”

Jonelle Layfield dazzled in this evening gown
Jonelle Layfield dazzled in this evening gown

She credits her four years of modeling experience with the Kathy Muller agency and her supportive family for preparing her well. Her parents and two grandmothers were front row, cheering her on. Although her older sisters were in California that night, they received the good news via a phone call from their father.

“It was absolutely surreal,” the flabbergasted teen tries to express.

“I couldn’t remember what my question was, I couldn’t remember any of the segments. I thought it was a dream; it’s so clich, but it’s true. You don’t believe it’s you. It’s just amazing.”

Jonelle tries to find words to explain the rush of victory, but comes up short. “There are no words,” she finally states. “I couldn’t think of anything at that moment; it was complete shock.”


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