Miss Universe Vietnam H'Hen Niê's Success Story Is One That All Women Need To Know About
This beauty queen hopeful might have bowed out from Miss Universe 2018 as a Top 4 finalist, but know that H'Hen Niê was still hailed a winner by many, with her historic participation in the world's most prestigious pageant inspiring women in more ways than one.
From the very beginning, the beauty who sported a standout pixie cut was a fan favorite, with many predicting a strong finish for her.
And on the morning of the pageant, the 26-year-old stood tall onstage and proudly proclaimed that from nothing, she was there, presenting herself as her country's representative in front of a worldwide audience of millions.
In many cases, "nothing" might be a hyperbole, but for H'Hen Niê, it was meant to describe her life in the most literal way.
After all, the working student-turned-model and pageant girl hails from Vietnam's Ede community, an ethnic group that comprises only five percent of the country's total population. Growing up with parents and siblings who coursed through life practicing Ede traditions—including marrying off girls as young as 14 years old—H'Hen Niê was determined on carving another path for herself.
And so, her journey from small beginnings to grand opportunities began.
With bravery in her heart and a spring in her step, she bid farewell to her old life, moved to Ho Chi Minh, and worked tirelessly towards her goal: to get a college education.
The major move first saw her enroll at Nha Trang National Ethnic Community College, and eventually, to the College of Foreign Economic Relations where she received a degree in Business Finance.
Though earning a diploma is a massive accomplishment in itself, H'Hen Niê's story digs deeper than that.
Her time as a university student was unlike most of her more privileged peers; she financed her own education by working as a tutor, nanny, domestic helper who cleaned houses and served food, and even a leaflet delivery girl. It was the only way for her to reach the finish line, but one that would be worth the late nights and never-ending tasks.
With her destiny drawn in the stars from the very start, the olive-skinned stunner was eventually scouted for modeling gigs as she was completing an internship at a bank.
This go-getter pounced on the opportunity (despite never considering modeling as a career of choice until then), and it eventually landed her a spot in reality TV show Vietnam's Next Top Model, where she finished 9th place.
The experience fueled a newly discovered passion in her and soon afterwards, she began training for Miss Universe where she aspired to be Vietnam's first-ever queen.
This now brings us to present day, when H'Hen Niê not only claimed victory for herself at this year's Miss Universe run, but for women with big dreams from all over the world.
She might not have won the crown, but many were quick to point out her successes, some unnoticed, from the pageant:
She became the first Vietnamese woman to make it past the Top 10 round at Miss Universe, and more so, the first Vietnamese bet to hail from an ethnic community.
She successfully broke Southeast Asian standards of beauty which dictate that a fair complexion and long locks make up the winning combination for a beauty queen hopeful.
Even her wardrobe choices were commendable; she memorably wore a combination of a quarter-sleeved midriff and burgundy pants during the first segment of the pageant's final night.
She rightfully used her life as the basis for her choice of advocacies: women empowerment, education, and girls' literacy. (Additionally, she is also a spokesperson for causes helping the elderly and raising awareness on HIV/AIDS).
And as for her prize money from the pageant estimated to amount to $10,000? She donated all of it, right down to the last cent, to the schools she attended as a girl, for them to be able to provide scholarships to deserving students.
Sometimes, a woman doesn't need a crown or a sash to be a beauty queen; with a good heart in the right place and a good head on her shoulders, she could be a true winner.
Photos from @hhennie.official