Meet the Hmong Women Now: Tia Moua, Miss Washington’s Outstanding Teen

“I don’t need a crown and banner that says I am “Miss America’s Outstanding Teen” to treat people with kindness, to serve others in my community, or to make a positive impact on others.”

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Hello! My name is Tia Moua. I am a determined and driven 16 year old from Spokane, Washington. I am the first Hmong-American state titleholder in the Miss America Organization as Miss Washington’s Outstanding Teen 2017. I was so honored to represent Hmong people and Washington state on the national stage at the Miss America’s Outstanding Teen pageant in Orlando, Florida where I received the “Spirit of America” award along with many other college scholarships. I am also a competitive dancer and have had a passion for dancing since I began at the age of nine. I love performing dances, teaching dance to children, and volunteering! I am part of the National Honor Society at my high school and am a Running Start Student at Eastern Washington University. I aspire to be a legislator for foreign policy and international affairs or a US Ambassador because I believe it’s important to maintain good relationships with other countries and would like to promote a positive image of our country.

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As Miss Washington’s Outstanding Teen, my platform is Volunteerism: Giving Your Time and Talents, because I have a huge passion for volunteering! I enjoy volunteering for several organizations such as Make A Wish, the American Childhood Cancer Organization, JDRF for Type 1 Diabetes, the Children’s Miracle Network and more. I have collected food, school supplies and diapers at several drives, taught dances to at-risk youth, volunteered at live auctions, and more. I chose this platform because there are many great benefits from volunteering. Serving your community has many health benefits because you forget about your own troubles by thinking of other people instead. Also, it gives you so much joy and satisfaction to know you are positively impacting your community. You can check out VolunteerMatch.org for volunteer opportunities in your area! Simply giving your time and talents to help others can leave a lasting impact on your community and is so powerful in influencing other people’s lives.

Tia Moua 3My main source of inspiration is my heritage. I am inspired by the Hmong culture because in my perspective, we are taught to always lend a helping hand and to support others. In fact, seeing the giving hearts of many Hmong people in my community helped me choose my platform on volunteerism. I was extremely grateful for the tremendous support I received from the Hmong community on my journey towards the Miss America’s Outstanding Teen national pageant! In addition, I am inspired by the fact that my parents (who are former refugees from Laos) came to America as young children knowing no English at all. But through their perseverance and hard work, my father was able to obtain a doctoral degree in psychology and my mother obtained a master’s degree in social work. I was born in America, so to me, this gives me no excuse to not chase after my wildest dreams and support those who are less fortunate. It also encourages me to work hard in my education so I can have a successful future. I am a 4.3 GPA student and have high expectations for myself, probably due to the fact that I believe in making no excuses, just as my parents did.

One of the most significant moment during my pageant career was when I competed at Miss America’s Outstanding Teen and did not win the national title. Although I did not win the title, I learned some of the most important life lessons from my preparation leading to the pageant and from not winning. I had spent many months prior to the pageant preparing for its four phases of competition – interview, talent, fitness, and onstage question and evening gown. Every day for months, I rehearsed my talent, which was a sassy jazz dance. I participated in many mock interviews with panels of judges, my family members, and neighbors to improve my interview and speaking skills. They asked me a variety of impromptu questions about my hobbies, foreign policy, current events, my ambitions, and more. I walked for hours in my high heels that I was going to wear onstage and practiced walking in my evening gown. I worked with a personal trainer who helped me improve my eating habits and gave me exercises that would help me achieve my fitness goals. I dreamed of becoming Miss America’s Outstanding Teen. But not becoming the national titleholder helped me realize something that I still apply to my life today: I don’t need a crown and banner that says I am “Miss America’s Outstanding Teen” to treat people with kindness, to serve others in my community, or to make a positive impact on others. Through this experience, I learned that I did not need a title to validate my worth. I could not base who I was as a person on five judge’s opinions and scores. I discovered that I am enough, despite not winning the crown. In the end, it is not the crown that defines me, but the person who I become and my character that really matters. I also discovered along the way, through the countless hours rehearsing my dance, many challenging mock interviews, and late nights spent working out, I had become a better version of myself and reached past my limits of what I thought I was capable of.

IMG_7066aFor that, I am so grateful for the Miss America Organization and the Miss Washington’s Outstanding Teen Organization. In addition, I was so excited to walk away with a full ride to the University of Alabama and a $1000 scholarship for being voted on by my fellow contestants as the nicest contestant, so I received the “Spirit of America” award also recognized as “Miss Congeniality!” It just goes to show that it pays to be nice – literally! I am still am in disbelief that I got the phenomenal opportunity to walk across that national stage, proudly representing Washington and exclaiming my Hmong pride into the microphone each night during my introduction.

One of the most challenging part of my career as a titleholder, dancer, and student, is balancing my busy schedule of school, twelve dance classes per week, pageant appearances, my social life, and sleeping. This year has certainly challenged me in this aspect, but I have learned to organize myself more through checking my calendar daily, communicating with my parents and siblings who help drive me to and from dance classes/ appearances, and prioritizing. This also means knowing that I must make sacrifices at times, such as not attending a family road-trip because I have a weekend-long dance competition, or attending a pageant appearance rather than hanging out with friends. But I always remember to be grateful for the great opportunities that come my way because every experience has shaped me and helped me grow as an individual.

I am eternally grateful to all the people who supported me along my journey and who helped make this experience of a lifetime possible. I am very proud to be a Hmong woman! I especially am honored to be representing Hmong people in an American pageant system because it is a reminder that we Hmong women are capable of anything and have the same possibilities as any other American to achieve great accomplishments if we put our mind to it. I encourage you all to embrace who you are and to remember your roots. Being Hmong-American, I have had to learn to embrace both Hmong and American cultures. Also, stand up for what you believe is right because you have a powerful tool which you can use to change the world – your voice. Additionally, don’t be afraid to go after your wildest dreams, because life is too short to not aim for your highest potential. 

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Throughout my life, an important thing I have learned is that anything worthwhile takes sacrifice and a lot of time and effort. You may not see the results right away, but do not give up and eventually your dedication and efforts will be rewarded. It took me almost a decade later after I started my pageant journey to achieve my goal of becoming Miss Washington’s Outstanding Teen. This was after many years of acting and modeling classes, coaching by my mother (shout out to my number one supporter!), and several pageants where I placed as a runner up or sometimes did not even place at all. However, if you have a dream and set your mind to it, it is definitely possible. Keep a positive mind set and keep on persisting! Also, wake up each day being grateful. Thank those people in your life who have helped you along your journey and who continue to support you. Lastly, remember that the world is full of endless possibilities so don’t just dream your life, but live your dreams.

Contact info: Feel free to contact me through Instagram at “maoteenwa” or “itstiamoua” and follow my Facebook page “MWAOTeen” for updates on my journey as Miss Washington’s Outstanding Teen! Or you can email me at tmua1234@hotmail.com for any questions or appearance requests. Thank you for reading!

Meet the HWN: Nancy Vang

“Beauty encompasses more than surface attractiveness. There is beauty in strength, intelligence, resilience, inspiration, and even vulnerability. I strive to promote women empowerment by sharing positivity and uplifting our fellow sisters of all shapes, sizes, and backgrounds.” -V.NANC

23113286_359843951124375_528121690_oNancy Vang, 23, from Fresno, California received her Bachelors of Science in Communicative Disorders and Deaf Studies with an emphasis on Speech-Language Pathology from California State University, Fresno. Following her educational career, she worked as a board certified autism technician/behavior therapist for children with autism.

She has participated in multiple community events such as after-school events, book fairs, field days, and yard sales.

Nancy is also a freelance writer, model managing/coordinator and founder of V.NANC. V.NANC is aimed to help young aspiring models in the community to obtain modeling opportunities to develop their portfolios in a safe and professional manner.

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To learn more about Nancy and support her mission, follow each of her social media below:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/v.nancc/

V.NANC: http://www.vnanc.com/

Patreon: http://www.patreon.com/nanc

Watch our interview below to learn about Nancy’s education story and her passion which helped her discovered V.NANC.

Meet the HWN: Pa Nhia Her

23456196_1521147214618443_5303382927916045857_oPa Nhia Her was born and raised in Saint Paul, Minnesota. Currently, she is pursuing her Masters in Dental Public Health from A. T. Still University and aspires to work as a dentist in the near future. In the realm of oral health, she is fascinated in dental public health and dental policy. She completed her undergraduate studies in Biology at St. Catherine University. There, she is a member of Tri-Beta National Biological Honors Society, and she served as the Co-President of SHE Pab: Voices of Hmong Women.

Aside from being a full-time student, she works as the Program Coordinator of the Minnesota Cavity Free Kids Program at Community Dental Care. Through her work, she served as an advisor to the Minnesota Department of Health’s Early Dental Disease Prevention Initiative or the Healthy Teeth, Healthy Baby Initiative. Additionally, Pa Nhia is researching with Dr. Vacharee Peterson in identifying barriers to caries prevention in high-risk communities.

23433259_1643312639023237_50254802_o-e1512355016179.jpgPa Nhia is also a member of the American Association of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD). Outside of work, Pa Nhia is a member of the Hmong Health Care Professionals Coalition and served as their Co-Chair for the second annual Hmong Health Conference. Earlier this year, Pa Nhia was the commencement speaker for the 916 Northeast Metro graduation and award ceremony. Moreover, she is the founder of Cavity-Free Hmong Baby and seeks to increase the oral health literacy of the Hmong community. 

For the youth, Pa Nhia hopes to inspire them to stay faithful in their career paths. She wants to encourage the youth to pursue higher education and to learn more about their Hmong culture and language so that they can appreciate and value their Hmong identity. She also believes that the youth should engage in community activism. Additionally, Pa Nhia wishes to use her leadership experiences in combination with her education to empower young girls to become leaders in their community.

Follow Pa Nhia’s campaign in educating our community on prevention and care for child dental health on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/cavityfreehmongbaby/

Contact Pa Nhia at: panhiak.her@hotmail.com

Watch our interview with Pa Nhia below:

Meet the HWN: Cindy Vang

Cindy Vang

Cindy Vang was born and raised in Sacramento,CA but currently resides in Phoenix, Arizona. She received her a BA in History from the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), MA in Social Work from CSU Sacramento, and her Doctoral Candidate in Social Work at Arizona State University.

Cindy has worked in multiple professions including community health navigator, medical social worker, research assistant, and as an instructor. Through her work she has gained significant knowledge in access to health care and school closures. She has organized and advocated alongside other Hmong-American organizers for underrepresented communities (including the Hmong community) in Sacramento, CA.

She hopes to offer insight on how to continue in higher education while remaining committed to helping the Hmong community. She will also provide her perspective of the reality of a PhD program and how to survive as a Hmong woman in a predominantly and historically white academic space.

Meet the HWN: Ashley Yang

Ashley Yang

Ashley Yang,19, was born in Fresno, CA and raised in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Ashley is a college senior at Augsburg University studying International Relations and Spanish. Ashley’s commitment to her community and education is strongly reflected in her work of giving back. She graduated from Minneapolis Community and Technical College (MCTC) with her Associates of Arts in Liberal Arts two weeks before walking her high school commencement in May 2016 and is a recipient of the Gates Millennium Scholarship.

Other than her education, Ashley is active in her community having served on the City of Minneapolis WorkForce Youth Council, spoken at many community events as well as supports her church as the Worship Leader among many others.

Ashley hopes to bring forth insight on international issues regarding youth, economics, and cultural differences to bridge a better understanding between the Hmong, U.S. Anglo-Americans, and persons of color inside and outside of U.S. borders to allow informational conversations. Her knowledge comes from traditional reserach and reading with a combination in hands-on experience having lived in Mexico for a year and South Korea. Ashley is the Founder and Director of the YANG & YANG Scholarships for Students Campaign and the Co-Foudner of El Centro Cultural de Ensenanza de Idiomas (CCEI), language school, in Mexico where she, her two business partners and teachers teach English, German, French, Spanish, and Italian.

During Ashley’s free time,she enjoys walking, exploring new places, singing, playing billiards, and writing. In fact, she is currently working on her first book.

To learn more about Ashley’s background, please visit her LinkedIn page:
www.linkedin.com/in/yangaa

Meet the HWN: Goe Yang

“Cancer may have affected my physical limits, but it can not take over my mentality. It can bring sadness, anger, and hardship to delay my dreams, but it can never take my love, my happiness, and my will to defeat this evil disease.”

My name is Goe Yang. I was born and raised in a small town called Fond Du Lac, WI and am currently residing in Florida. I am the youngest of seven wonderful siblings; four brothers and two sisters. Growing up I’ve always enjoyed singing, Hmong dancing, and art which have all carried over to my adult life. I’m a big believer of embracing my culture and have learned to sing kwv txiaj (folk song) from my mom and have also taught Hmong dance. The Hmong culture is so beautiful and I hope to pass on the beauty of dancing and the language to our children so that our culture will live on.

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As a child and throughout my lifetime my parents have always emphasized the importance of education and becoming successful. After high school I began my college education not knowing who I wanted to be or what I was destined to do. I switched my major a few times and felt lost about my career path. I really didn’t know what I was going to do for the rest of my life. One thing I did know was that my dream was to make a difference by helping others. The funny thing about dreams though, is that they can be shattered at any given time with no apparent warning; maybe for the better, maybe for worse. That happened to me. My dreams were put on hold as my life suddenly turned into a nightmare. My goals shattered and my life forever changed.

It started on Christmas Eve. I was taken to the emergency room after fainting. I can clearly recall the car ride there and how I was feeling. The ten minute car ride seemed like ten hours and I could slowly feel my body giving up on me. Every breath I took, I felt that much closer to passing out again. The events that led up to this point started with flu-like symptoms, fevers of 103°, loss of appetite, sore throat with an inability to ingest any food, and large circular bruises that started to appear randomly all over my body. Til this day the words of the ER doctor still replay in my head like a broken record, “If you came in any later, you would have not made it alive”. After being admitted and having a bone marrow biopsy, it was confirmed, I had cancer; a blood disorder known as Acute Myelogenous Leukemia (AML).

I was 21 years old, healthy, active, happy, and there I was seconds from facing death withimage4 a blink of an eye. I was admitted to Moffit Cancer Center and began the new year of 2009 with chemotherapy. The side effects were fatigue, nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, mouth sores, fevers, chills, night sweats, and spitting up blood. After a month and a half in the hospital I returned home. However, I was not who I use to be physically or mentally. That was something I had to learn to accept. I continued to fight the battle with this illness and though my mind told me I could do it, my body always refused. Eating, bathing, dressing, and even talking was so exhausting and I constantly found myself back in the ER and admitted to the hospital over and over again. Blood and platelet transfusions as well as bone marrow biopsies became a typical part of my routine, yet I continued to be optimistic and positive.

After about a year I was in remission, but only to find out that the cancer had come back once again. I built myself up so high from the dirt and yet again I was knocked back down to my knees, even deeper than before. The cancer wasn’t ready to give up devouring me or putting me through agony. My fight obviously wasn’t over. This time around my symptoms were different. I began to have severe migraines that would frequently keep me up at night. The pain was so excruciating that I often found myself rolled up in a ball on my bedroom floor where it was nice and cool from the tiles. Once the bone marrow biopsy confirmed that the cancer had returned, I was then admitted once again to Moffitt Cancer Center. I tried to remain positive about my situation, but it was harder this time than before. Why wasn’t the first time enough? Why must I endure this pain again? Is it even worth fighting anymore? With so many unanswered questions I began to let myself fall.

One night the doctor came into my room, handed me a picture of my MRI brain scan, and proceeded to tell me that the cancer had spread to the fluids surrounding my brain. He stated that without treatment the cancer could possibly enter into my brain and cause severe brain damage. The procedure for that would be given in the form of spinal taps to administer the chemo drugs into the spinal fluids. I was exhausted. Everything that could go wrong, did go wrong and I held on to little hope; I gave up fighting. I built up the courage to accept my fate and I no longer wanted to experience the pain. My positive attitude silently changed to a peaceful mind just waiting to be taken away from this earth, finally accepting death. It wasn’t until one night when I had fainted once again that I realized my purpose.

image5I remember feeling a sudden weakness, the room started to spin, and then I was in the silence of darkness. A few moments later I heard a voice saying, “wake up, wake up” and I realized it was the voice of my then boyfriend and now husband. I could feel my husband clutching me tightly and still pleading for me to open my eyes. As I slowly gained back consciousness, all I saw was chaos and unfamiliar faces of doctors, nurses, and technicians who ran to my aid. I learned later that I had fainted and experienced a mini seizure. That incident changed me completely.

After everything that has happened, I finally realized that I needed to stop being selfish and start being selfless. I had more fire in my fight now because I knew that I never wanted to inflict that kind of pain on my loved ones. I knew deep inside that there were bigger plans for me. I continued with chemotherapy and lost all my hair which was an emotional roller coaster for me. Without my hair I felt ugly, less feminine, and was always cautious about what people thought about me. Eventually I got tired of worrying and began walking around without a wig or hat to cover up; just me and my bald head. I knew that the people who loved me would still love me regardless and it was just a matter of me learning to love myself again.

Cancer isn’t selective and may be seen as a curse, but my eyes have been opened in a new light to see what a miracle and blessing the journey has truly been. I have gained more knowledge and understanding of what life is really worth because I’ve faced the process to death. Thank you cancer for the pain because with pain I became stronger and with darkness I have seen the light. Cancer may have affected my physical limits, but it can not take over my mentality. It can bring sadness, anger, and hardship to delay my dreams, but it can never take my love, my happiness, and my will to defeat this evil disease. Cancer motivated me not just to live like there is no tomorrow, but to also love like you have never loved before. Through my journey I lost people who I thought would always be there by my side, yet I gained people who I never knew would even walk the journey with me. I have learned to love the hardest people to love, the stranger, the evil, and the enemy because they are the ones who need the most love. They are ones who know not of love and happiness and their heart can possibly change through kindness. In the end, if all you receive is hate, at least you know you have not wronged them because you have only given love in return.

Our lives every day is a blessing and tomorrow is never promised. No matter what walk of life we are in, everything happens for a reason. We are given the struggles to appreciate the end reward that we work so hard to achieve. If with every situation you can find one positive light in a million negatives, then you will always come out on top and stronger than before. No matter how deep in the dirt you are, keep climbing because we must fall before we rise. Let the negatives be what motivates you to fight even harder rather than having it destroy you in the way it is intended to. We only have one life to live so live it with an open heart, open mind, and most definitely with endless dreams.

After all that I have been through, I was finally able to take a step forward. I recently graduated in May 2017 with my A.S. degree as a Physical Therapist Assistant. Through my school years I have always dreamt about being the student speaker at a graduation ceremony. This year I was given the honor to be the student speaker for State College of Florida’s Class of 2017. It was a rewarding moment to be able to stand in front of hundreds of people and deliver a speech knowing that this was what I have worked so hard for. I have since started working, with my caseload consisting of mainly pediatric patients and I absolutely love what I do. My plans for the future is to continue my education towards my bachelors degree in health science and continue on to a master’s and doctorate degree. I also hope that one day I will be able to provide therapy to Hmong people in Laos or other parts of Asia who lack the access and are unable to afford care for their disabilities. Eight years ago I was just a girl fighting for her life and now I’ve been given life in hopes that I can help someone live life.

image2To me, being a Hmong woman means recognizing your weaknesses yet being mentally strong to withstand the battles and criticisms you may face in life. I feel like our culture puts a lot of pressure on us as Hmong women by painting a picture of what we are supposed to be: a wife who will cook and clean after a long day of work, cater to the community, be fertile enough to bear children, someone who will remain silent and patient even when she should speak up, or in my case, “don’t marry her because she is ill.” Being a Hmong women means embracing the Hmong culture, but also to instill in the generations after us that we can be anything we want to be if we work hard for it regardless of what people say. It’s about helping other woman stand up for their life, their dreams, and their goals through encouragement and support. To be a Hmong woman is to carry the weight of all the negativity that is thrown your way, but only allowing the emission of positivity because THAT is true strength. So be the person who wakes up every day determined to accomplish a goal, change a life, and pour out love because the change starts with us.

Watch my graduation speech below:

Feel free to follow/contact me through social media:

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/goe.yang

Instagram: g.0.3.y

Meet the HWN: Vu Vue

“You do not have to be the smartest, the brightest crayon in a box, but as long as you have the motivation, the drive, the dedication, and the perseverance; you are going to be okay.”

Vu Vue is 28 years old and resides in Milwaukee, WI. She has her MA in Social Work and is a licensed Clinical Social Worker who is a Care Coordinator at UnitedHealth Group, Photographer.

Vu Vue 1Vu hopes to instill in our youth and women knowledge in both the field of Social Work and Photography, as they work hand in hand. “Social Work can be a stressful profession, depending on the population and field of work. Photography is a great outlet for me where I am able to do something I enjoy while still bringing in additional income. When I am out shooting a session, I am focused on the task at hand, I am in the ‘here and Now'”.

Vu expressed an interest in photography back in 2009 when she bought her first DSLR. After spending two years photographing her families and friends, she first began her photography business in 2011. “Photography is something I”ve been doing on and off since then. Originally, I started with the V.V. Captured Photography, then to Vu Vue Photography, and in 2016, I re-branded to something more unique but still simple: Sunkissed Photography.”

What a privilege to have interviewed and discuss with Vu on her education, profession, and the significance on being a Hmong women. To highlight some of the key points we’ve discussed in the video, Vu shared:

  • Pursuing an undergraduate degree in Rehabilitation Services and a graduate degree in Social Work.
  • Opportunities in the field of Social Work
  • Challenges in the field of Social Work
  • Balancing between your professional and personal interests
  • Developing a career in photography
  • Misconceptions on a career in Art
  • Using fear to fuel motivation

I encourage you to either sit and watch the entirety of the interview or play it in the background as you are cooking, cleaning, or working because I promise you will find your motivation to keep moving.

If there are any questions you have after watching the video you are welcome to reach out to Vu through her email or Facebook account. 

Sunkissed Photography

https://www.facebook.com/sunkissedphotographyvv/

Email: vuvue89@live.com