Nearly five years after being crowned Miss Universe Vietnam 2017 and entering Top 5 Miss Universe 2018, H’Hen Niê continues to be in the public eye. People know the Ede beauty not only for her stylish short hair and healthy tan but also for her compassionate heart and sincere personality.
Born in 1992 to a humble family, Niê is the third child and has six siblings. Like many other children in the villages of the Central Highlands, she started working on the farm to support her family as a child. According to local custom, girls get married young. However, at 14 Niê wanted to move forward and assert herself. She pursued her studies from Nha Trang to Saigon where she started her career as a photo model, working in many fashion shows.
After being crowned Miss Universe Vietnam, Niê represented the country at the Miss Universe 2018 contest in Thailand and was one of the Top 5 finalists.
These days, besides her main career as a model, Niê is often busy with volunteer activities for her community in Saigon. On the occasion of the year of the Tiger, Lunar New Year 2022, Niê did a special interview with Culture Magazin.
During the last period of social distancing, has your life changed?
When I was at home watching the news, to be honest, I was worried. But I overcame that and began volunteering because I wanted to do something for my dear Saigon – the place that has raised me, and millions of other people away from home like me. During those times, I forgot about being a beauty queen or a famous person. I helped people and followed the goals of the charity organizations in Saigon, not for any specific purpose. I think that I’m doing this to follow my heart and bring positive energy to those around me.
What difficulties and challenges have you faced during the pandemic? And what did you do to overcome them?
During the pandemic artists like myself couldn’t attend concerts or events, which reduced our regular income. Fortunately, I have a habit of managing money clearly, pandemic or not.
For advertising or ambassador contracts, I set aside 10 per cent of the fee to support the community, or for expenses such as insurance and medicine for myself and my family. I always have a separate account for charity. The pandemic makes it impossible for me to earn extra income, but in terms of money management, I think I’m doing well.
During the fourth COVID-19 outbreak and even before that, you supported people throughout the country with many volunteer activities. Can you tell us about that?
I love to participate in community activities, and during the pandemic, the most enjoyable one is directing people at vaccination clinics. It felt like being a traffic warden. Every time I gave instructions, people would follow and that was very heartwarming.
The job that brings me many fond memories is probably going to the supermarket with local people or loading goods for the needy. Joining a volunteer group with MC Quỳnh Hoa has also been good. I came together with other artists to encourage everyone to have faith that we will overcome the pandemic. At that time, although it was just standing in the yard and speaking through a microphone to people at a distance in the isolation area, I felt gratitude and respect for the medical team and those they were caring for. It made me burst with happiness and tears.
How many projects did you work on, and what were you responsible for during the pandemic?
I can’t remember, but I carried rice, worked as a shipper, coordinated vaccines, sponsored orphans suffering from COVID-19, and sold agricultural products online for people in Đồng Tháp province. Though I feel like I’ve done a lot, they are pale in comparison to the efforts of the frontline medical staff and volunteers. I just hope that I can spread more love and unity so that people can support each other to overcome difficulties.
What has been your most memorable experience while supporting the community during the pandemic?
I really admire and respect the medical team that fought against the pandemic. Only when I saw them in action did I understand how hard their jobs were. They devoted all their heart and energy to their tasks. Some doctors and nurses recognized me because of my voice. They took pictures with me even though everyone was wearing protective gear, and thanked me for coming to help. That made me feel touched and extremely happy. I also sent thanks to everyone, wishing them good health despite being away from their families for many days.
In a pandemic that has affected the whole world, do you have any reflections for yourself or your mission?
To me, calling helping people a mission or a responsibility is correct. Having a love for people is also fine. Because I am a beauty queen, I must carry out those responsibilities to align with the position that I have. A day being a beauty queen means a lifetime being a beauty queen. I don’t do it for myself but for everyone and our society.
When appearing in public at events or on social media, people always see a funny Miss H’Hen Nie who is full of positive energy. How do you maintain that energy?
Sometimes I also have my own worries or stress, but thanks to volunteering and community activities, as well as the Sao La project [to protect the endangered saola, a rare animal that looks like an Antelope and is native to Laos and Vietnam], I stop thinking about my problems and start contributing to the larger society and protecting the environment and animals. As a result, I can do my job better to spread positive energy. When I’m at home, I practice sports, indulge in haircare and skincare, read the news, cook and talk to my parents. I also livestream with fans. It makes me feel happier and more positive.
Many people say that you are a “national queen.” It shows their affection for you. How do you feel about this title?
I am called by different names, Miss Shipper, Miss Central Highlands, Miss Humility or Miss Farmer. I feel very happy because those names are close and familiar to me. To say that I am the national beauty queen means maybe I am loved by everyone, which I am very grateful for.
Occasionally there are a few negative comments about you on social media. Do you feel sad about that?
I have been hurt and sad and have cried because of negative news or comments on social media. However, gradually, I have stayed away from such information. Every day I want to work hard for society so that positive energy always rises and I can avoid absorbing unworthy negative news.
The year 2021 has been an unforgettable milestone. Everyone is looking forward to a new year. What about you? Do you have any plans or new projects in your modeling career?
I have a lot of plans and am preparing to implement them, but for now I want to keep them a secret. When they are complete, everyone will know right away.
Will your goal in work and life still be contributing more to the community?
Social activities and volunteering have always been my mission. I continuously remind myself to work hard to help more people and spread love everywhere.
Is there a particular tradition in your hometown in Tết that you like the most?
In my hometown, there is no Tết concept like the Kinh people’s custom. People just celebrate Tết in a simple way, without a lot of preparations. For example, Tết in my hometown is only on the first day of the Lunar New Year. And on the second day, everyone goes to work in the fields as usual.
Do you have any plans for Tết this year?
I will return to my hometown to visit my family. That is where I receive the love and positive energy to recharge whenever I am sad or lonely. During Tết, my hometown has a cooling atmosphere with fruit trees blooming. This relaxes and calms me after a year of hard work.
For the upcoming Tết, do you want to say anything to our readers?
I want to thank Culture Magazin for this meaningful conversation. Wishing the magazine and the editorial board as well as the readers a year with good health, peace, and new achievements in work and life. Happy New Year!Culture wishes H’Hen Niê good health, lots of joy and the knowledge she will always be loved.
This post is also available in: Tiếng Việt