A highlight of Honolulu Pride, Universal Show Queen pageant makes a grand return

This year was the grand return of the pageant since 2019 – due to the pandemic.
Published: Oct. 10, 2022 at 2:53 PM HST|Updated: Oct. 13, 2022 at 10:41 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Honolulu welcomed back an over-the-top pageant this weekend, attracting some of the top entertainers from the LGBTQ+ community.

Universal Show Queen last happened in 2019, prior to the pandemic. It made a grand return the Hawaii Convention Center Saturday amid Honolulu’s pride month, happening all of October.

Elaborate and extravagant costumes took the spotlight in the highly anticipated event. USQ as it is commonly referred to, is a pageant open to drag and trans performers.

Now in its 37th year, there were six contestants from all over the world who fought for the coveted title.

They’re judged in various categories from black and white couture, talent and of course the highlight – the showgirl category.

Universal Show Queen 2022 made a return to the Hawaii Convention Center Saturday.
Universal Show Queen 2022 made a return to the Hawaii Convention Center Saturday.(HNN)

“We try to look for a Las Vegas type show girl where they can execute their costume without having to hold it – or be very Las Vegas show girl where they’re very free to move,” USQ owner and producer Aiko said. “Sometimes it’s a challenge. If it’s too big, it’s too much for it to balance and all that, versus somebody who’s got something a little smaller but has more control over it.”

Aiko is a former title holder herself, having won the competition in 1994, long before she took over the monumental task of organizing it.

“I’ve seen the pageant grow from... just the competition wise, as far as the girls, every year the bar is raised up. And it just gets bigger and bigger and bigger and higher and higher, and today here we are with the girls. We had like little costumes back then and now they’re huge huge costumes,” Aiko said.

At the core of it, it’s about entertaining a crowd, and who does it best.

“It’s about somebody that can amplify, just being an all around show girl from being elegant to entertaining, to just being poised and knowing when to give it her all as far as entertaining,” Aiko said.

This year, the crown went to Gadfrie Arbulu, a native of Peru. She wowed the crowd with her stage presence, also winning the talent and show girl categories. She now joins an exclusive sisterhood of legendary performers.

“It takes a lot to get up on that stage and it takes a lot to compete,” Aiko said. “Give the girls credit and appreciate what they have to offer on stage. Accept them for who they are, and you know, we’re all entertainers in a sense and we just want to be recognized for our art and our talent.|

In just a matter of weeks, Aiko says she’ll already start planning next year’s competition.