If energy were a currency, Miss H’Hen Niê must be one of the “richest” people without having to struggle to possess such a fortune…

Interview H'Hen Niê

It’s been two years since the day H’Hen Niê became the first member of an ethnic minority to win the crown of Miss Universe Vietnam in 2017. Looking back at her miraculous journey, no one can deny the influence that this 27-year-old lady has brought about. Be that as it may, people would more often find her in a traditional costume and amidst the stilt houses of the peaceful Highlands. Despite being a crowned “Miss” of some stature, H’Hen Niê is unlike any other holder of this title. Yet, all one has to do is look into her eyes to know that what she has taken most pride in throughout this “transformation” process, which is being able to lead a kind and devoted life and putting a maximum effort into everything she does.

Miss Universe Vietnam 2017

Greetings H’Hen Niê! Coming out as the winner of a prestigious beauty contest, what are the lessons that you’ve drawn for yourself?

The journey from a show-thirsty model many years ago to the stage of glory today has taught me one thing: That no matter who you are or how underprivileged you may be, you can always pursue a dream of your own. But when you do reach the peak of achievement, do not think too much of it, or of yourself. If you do, failure will come knocking on your door before you can realize. You may find me in many different images, glamourous at public events or plain and simple at home, but I can proudly state that I have never changed on the inside. I’m just being myself, that is all. The more I get involved in my current role, the more mature and knowledgeable I become. But at the end of the day, being a Miss is just a title and not some kind of “talent” that people should look up to. Instead, the title serves as a conduit that provides me with the opportunity to do kind and interesting things that were previously out of my reach.

Being the most successful Vietnamese contestant up to now in such an internationally acclaimed beauty contest as Miss Universe 2018, what does H’Hen Niê believe is your mission with regard to encouraging the succeeding generation?

A thought I often hold is that only by being yourself will you stand out from the crowd. In the theater of an international contest, I want the first thing that comes into people’s mind of the name “Miss Vietnam” is someone who is loving and respectful to others, while spreading positive energy as a woman. Towards the next generation, therefore, I’d hope to be able to share as much experience with them as possible, and that they can be more conscious of their own distinctive traits. So that when they step onto the world stage, they can be a special version of themselves while still honouring the proud features of a Vietnamese woman.

Interview H'Hen Niê

Is this the image of Miss H’Hen Niê that you want to be remembered as?

I want everyone to remember me not only as an energetic person with a constant smile on her face, but also a Rade lady who can acclimatize and blend in well in any environment. I feel blessed to be born in the Rade community, whose ample energy and strong unity are the greatest gifts I have received. Thus, when stepping into the modern society, especially in the urban environment where every day is a rat race, being a totally different girl who lives true to herself is already a striking and attractive trait. Of course, with my Miss Vietnam title comes the price of comfortable and private moments, but I do not regret it despite knowing that hardship and pressure will always be present as long as I still put on the “public figure” cape.

Interview Miss Universe Vietnam 2017

What people often think of a pageant winner is the glamour and fascination, but what about the pressure that H’Hen Niê is facing as one?

The first pressure that came immediately after my crowning was the stereotype that the previous winners have established. Everything must follow a standard, from the way I walk or stand to how I eat and speak, it just restrains me from being myself and puts more pressure on my shoulders. If I were being myself, I could stop by any street vendor whenever I’m hungry, brood whenever my mood is down, or ride a bike or motorbike whenever I feel like instead of upholding my image of a glamorous pageant winner who only travels by luxurious cars or flies in business class. I want to stick with my name, H’Hen Niê, that one only and not any other sobriquet. And my solution to shrugging off all these pressures is to return to where it all began – my homeland. Returning to my “roots” is perhaps the best way to alleviate the burden from my glory and restore my true self.

After the hectic periods in life, I often return to the house where my parents and relatives are waiting to welcome me back. Back to the stilt house and the family’s daily routine, to the cup of black coffee my father makes every morning, and to the most familiar memories of childhood. There will be times when we only feel utter happiness when being truest and most natural to ourselves. Being happy in this way can also help balance your hectic life, that’s why we need to enjoy it to the fullest.

Interview H'Hen Niê

Along with pressure of the winner’s title also comes the consequences, as you have more than once faced the negative comments from the social network. Have you, in a certain moment, been influenced by such comments?

Social networking entails both positive and negative influences. One thing that people often find themselves trapped in is the overrated freedom of speech. Many are taking too much “liberty” with their slanders and disparages, too willing to subject others to their vicious words without accounting for the victim’s emotions. I hope that before writing a comment or sending a message, people would really think about it and understand that they will one day reap what they sow today. When facing public criticism myself, I always make an effort to stay away from disappointment and discouragement. But when all is said and done, each one of us always needs someone by our side to listen and help us release all the negative energies before moving on.

And what if one day you become the subject of criticism? I want to tell you this. If those words come from your loved ones, then you should stop for a second and reflect upon yourself. But if they come from total strangers from a virtual network, why should you be upset and annoyed? Stay away from those who hurt you and spend more time with those you love to do more meaningful things. That’s another way to find happiness.

What are your prospects for the future? Have you ever thought of doing business?

I’m continuing to participate in humanitarian projects, especially those aiming to aid women and children, as well as those affected by HIV. Everyone has a different life, and I want people to know that there are others around them who are facing grave hardships and are in need of our sympathy. Therefore, I’ve dedicated my future prospects to accompanying the less fortunate, to give them the vision of having a dream in life and staying optimistic.

On the other hand, I am quite fond of doing business (Grinning). With an endeavour to do good for the community and society, I’ve taken great interest in clean agriculture. However, this model takes a lot of time and money to realize, so I would have to wait for a while until I am no longer financially bound, being able to support my family and keep in everything in check. At that moment I will have more time to take care of my favourite plants and deliver clean food to consumers. Agriculture is a risky trade, so any product I come out with is the fruition of my passion and enthusiasm, not a means to make profits. But with a vision to disperse the people’s fear concerning food safety, I will be making thorough research into promising models and investing in modern cultivation techniques, so that high-quality, clean food will be available to the mass consumer market in the near future.

Interview H'Hen Niê
Interview H'Hen Niê

As one of the leading individual representatives of women in the modern era who daringly breaks away from stereotypes, what do you think are the prerequisites for a woman to achieve her dreams?

That would be independence in life. When you’re still young, your parents may show you the way, but once you’ve become independent, you can make any decision with great confidence and under no one’s influence. In addition, since each person possesses a different personality, try to become the best version of yourself and not anyone else’s. Take pride in who you are and share your message to the community and society. What’s more, try to approach everything around you in a different aspect to give yourself something to discover and conquer. Because dreaming is not about what you dream about, but how you bravely embrace and realize it.

Despite the conservative notions about a woman’s beauty, Vietnamese women are striving for a harmonious beauty. What do you think you should do to honour your beauty in the most natural way?

I am often the center of focus when it comes to the definition of beauty. And the more this happens, the more confident I am with what I’ve got. When you have confidence in yourself, you create a refreshing source of energy and emit an outstanding and compelling appeal. Besides the preservation of my distinctive traits as a Rade woman, I also focus on taking care of myself, especially on improving my skin condition and staying in good shape. “Shape comes first, and skin second”, isn’t that what people often say when determining a woman’s beauty? I too believe that this notion is true.

Interview H'Hen Niê

And a piece of advice for women who want to become more beautiful…

Don’t pay attention to comparison and judgment. If you’re scared into changing yourself, it’d only mean that you are inconsistent and susceptible to public bias. I hope that young ladies would be able to turn a blind eye to any negative opinion and disparagement, and instead take pride in what they possess. Of course, we cannot influence an opinion or change people’s mind in a short time, so what’s important here is how you take them in. If you consider them all a positive thing, you’ll have more confidence and learn to accept yourself, since that is the only thing that no one else possess but you yourself.

Success in one’s career is perhaps the ultimate goal of many, so what about you? What is success to you so that you can find happiness in such a harsh environment as the show business?

For me, just being able to do my best every day is already a success. Once you’ve exploited this comforting flow of energy, you’ll find yourself treating your family and those around you in a more positive way and find long-lasting happiness. Be a “pioneer” in your own thinking, and don’t put too much pressure on being successful. Success, in fact, is demonstrated not only through your work and achievements, but also through how you treat a fellow human and nurture your soul to become a person of value.

Interview H'Hen Niê

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Text: JENNI VÕ, HỒNG ĐẶNG | Translated by HÒA TÔN | Creative Director: HIEPLEDUC | Photo: LINH B52 | Make up: HÀNG THANH THIỆN | Outfít: CÔNG TRÍ | Stylist: ĐỖ ĐĂNG KHOA | Producer: VY TRAN | Assistant: HOANG KHANG

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