Yes, Miss Chinese Seattle heard right



Linda Tomko didn’t expect to win the first pageant she’d ever entered, so it’s no wonder the moment almost passed her by when she was announced as the new Miss Chinese Seattle in front of fellow contestants and a full-house Benaroya Hall audience last Saturday.

“I didn’t think it was me. I thought I was hearing things. People had to tell me to go out there” for the crowning, she said Wednesday. “It’s still unbelievable.”

Tomko, a Federal Way resident, is the first half-Chinese, half-Caucasian winner in the pageant’s 49-year history. She also was the only non-Seattleite among this year’s 10 contestants.

She might have been neither without some prodding from her mother, Lynn, a native of Taiwan.

“I’m not the pageant type. I was kind of iffy about entering, but my mom really encouraged me,” said Tomko, 18, who went for it partly because of the $5,000 scholarship for the winner she was hoping to add to other scholarships she has to attend the University of Washington starting this fall.

In addition to the college aid, Tomko’s 12 months as Miss Chinese Seattle will include automatic entries in the next Miss Chinatown USA pageant in San Francisco and an international Chinese pageant in Hong Kong, plus next year’s Miss Seafair contest. All expenses will be paid by the Seattle Chinese Chamber of Commerce, sponsor of last Saturday’s event in which Tomko scored the best overall in judging in an interview with the five judges, a one-minute speech, evening gown and swimsuit wear, talent and a question-and-answer session.

For the talent portion, Tomko performed a Tahitian dance. “I wasn’t sure the judges would like it, but I wanted to do something fun and different,” she said.

In the Q-and-A, her answer to who she’d most like to meet was Colin Powell, the U.S. Secretary of State. She said she admires him for being a racial minority yet one of the nation’s most powerful people, as well as his role in foreign affairs, which she plans to study in college.

Tomko was born in Colorado Springs, Colo., where her father, John, was stationed in the Air Force. Her family also lived in Honolulu, Hawaii, before moving to Federal Way when she was an elementary school student.

She graduated this year from Decatur High School and was a Running Start student at Highline Community College. She earned so many class credits at HCC that she’ll enter the UW as a sophomore.

“We’re very proud of her,” Tomko’s dad said.

Though modest about winning Miss Chinese Seattle (“It’s still unbelievable. There were so many talented girls,” she said), Tomko also is proud of the confidence she gained, including in the swimsuit modeling.

“If you can walk in front of that many people in a swimsuit, you can do anything,” she said.

Editor Pat Jenkins: 925-5565,

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