Nu Vang, center, after being crowned Miss United Hmong at Calwa Park in early 2016. Photo by Toua Xiong of Star Pictures Studio.
Nu Vang, center, after being crowned Miss United Hmong at Calwa Park in early 2016. Photo by Toua Xiong of Star Pictures Studio.

FRESNO, Calif. — When Nu Vang heard her name announced as the winner of the Miss United Hmong pageant at Calwa Park she was overwhelmed by emotion.

“I felt so happy, like my dreams were coming true,” said the 26-year-old Vang. “I was so proud that I was crowned Miss United Hmong and that I am able to represent the Hmong community.”

The pageant, hosted by Hmong New Year Inc., was timed to mark the Hmong New Year in December. Vang, who graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Mass Communication and Broadcasting from Fresno State in 2011, competed on a platform of community health and healthcare access.

Vang is a community outreach specialist for Fresno Center for New Americans, where she helps residents enroll in healthcare no matter their immigration status.

Vang’s parents are refugees from Laos, having fled the country alongside thousands of others during the Vietnam War. Many settled in the Fresno area, home to the second biggest Hmong community in the United States. Vang, the third of eight siblings, was born in Fresno.

“I love being able to live here in the Central Valley,” Vang said.

As a young child Vang took an interest in books, agriculture and media.

“During the summer I would spend all my days reading different books like The Boxcar Children and Goose Bumps while enjoying fresh peaches. I also really loved just going out seeing the agriculture and being in the outdoors,” she said.

When Vang got the opportunity to participate in the Miss United Hmong pageant, it wasn’t all hair and makeup. Contestants had to practice dance routines, stage walks and the Hmong language. Throughout it all her parents were her biggest supporters.

Vang said her favorite part was the bonding time she spent with her friends and fellow contestants, adding that the Hmong New Year pageant is a great way to learn about Hmong culture in all its aspects.

Now that she is Miss United Hmong, Vang said she is noticed more in the community and that people often ask to pose for pictures with her.

Vang hopes to be a role model for other Hmong women in her community.

“My family and I are so thankful to receive this honor,” she said. “It’s such a great thing to be given the opportunity to represent the Hmong community and empower each other.”

Aqeela Starks (she/her/hers) on Instagram
Aqeela Starks (she/her/hers)
WHO IS SHE? Aqeela Elisha Amani Latrice Starks is 18 years old and graduated from Big Picture high school Class of 2017. She loves spending time writing and drawing. When she’s not doing that she spends hours playing The Sims 3 and 4 and watching Netflix.

DID YOU KNOW? She can’t go a day without coffee, loves sour candy and her favorite color is blue.

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