Star-Bulletin Features

Friday, July 6, 2001

Faye Okawa, 43, shows a picture of herself at age 3,
taken after she won Meadow Gold Dairies' baby
contest in 1960.

She musta been
a beautiful baby

It's hard to say what goes into
a Healthy Baby Contest winner

By Scott Vogel

We've all said it. Hardly a moment passes after someone performs some feat extraordinary or infamous (e.g., saves a person from a burning building, eats worms on a reality TV series, opens fire on a crowd of innocents) before someone else makes the tired observation that he or she is "getting their 15 minutes of fame." To paraphrase Andy Warhol, in the future, someone will make a comment about someone's 15 minutes of fame every 15 minutes. So, if it's only been 5 or 6 minutes since you've butted heads with everybody's favorite cliché, turn the page. Otherwise, spend a quarter-hour reminiscing with Margaret Kojima about her daughter Faye, the 1960 winner of the Hawaii Healthy Baby Contest.

"It was my doing," said Kojima, still sounding a bit sheepish -- more than 40 years later -- about entering her 3-year-old in the competition. Still, the memories remain fresh. "She had a red one-piece bathing suit outfit, and I had her hair in a big, round bun. She's my only child so I always thought she was just like a doll."

And what was it about her that turned the judges' heads?

"And I had her in long hotdog curls like Shirley Temple."

A Star-Bulletin news clip shows Faye Okawa with her
booty after she won one of the first Healthy Baby
Contests. The competition started 48 years ago.

Yes, but what was the secret of Faye's allure? From whence came her beguiling manner? And more importantly, how can parents imbue their children with a similar mystique as they prepare for the 48th annual Healthy Baby contest this weekend at Ward Warehouse?

Kojima paused, took a breath and sighed. It was a sound Diana Vreeland might make, an if-you-don't-know-I-can't-tell-you kind of sigh.

"She had a very wonderful personality," offered Faye's mom, finally. "She was always smiling, and when someone talked to her she always smiled and talked back. And she was never afraid of people. She's very well-liked, even today. In that sense she kept up the nice stance ... liked people, was nice to people."

One gets the sense that Kojima was holding back, no? After all, there are a great many wonderfully gregarious children; that's why shopworn expressions like "don't talk to strangers" are continually heard from the lips of concerned parents (also about every quarter-hour or so). It seemed reasonable to go to the source, Faye herself, now Faye Okawa, who's now a 43-year-old married mother of two.

"I was 3. I don't remember anything about it," was her curt reply. Another dead-end.

At last some enlightenment on the judging process came courtesy Maude Tanaka, a project manager for Communications Pacific, the public relations firm for the contest's sponsor, Meadow Gold Dairies.

"The three main characteristics are health, appearance and personality," she explained. "It's not like a beauty contest or music contest or anything. The contestants will step to the front of the stage, and hopefully they'll have enough family members in the background to cheer them on. The emcee will say something about them, like how they like 'Barney' or how they love milk."

But there won't be much of an interview process; most of the contestants are still at the babbling stage (though "some can say 'hi'"). That's because according to current rules, all participants must have been born between Dec.16, 1998, and Jan. 8, 2000, so the oldest kids will be just over 2 1/2. More than 400 babies have already preregistered for the event but last-minute, walk-in -- or crawl-in -- entries will be accepted on Saturday morning. Five winners will be selected during Sunday's finals, with the grand prize winner receiving a $2,500 savings bond.

And don't despair if you haven't preregistered. Margaret Kojima entered her daughter on a last-minute whim. ("I thought it would be a good experience for her; I never thought she'd win.") Still, if the hotdog curls are any indication, she quickly made up for lost time. And as chance favors the prepared mind, Kojima was ready when lightning struck and the fame gods plucked little Faye from obscurity. Just as they will some other lucky youngster, whose own 15 minutes will promptly begin.

Baby Contest

What: 48th annual Healthy Baby Contest
When: Semifinals at 8:30 a.m. Saturday; finals 10 a.m. Sunday
Where: Ward Warehouse Amphitheatre stage
Cost: Free
Call: 342-3446

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