The First time I Met This Hmong Artist, I Cried.

You will not realize an artist’s impact on you until you meet him.

Performing in Le Grand Dôme in France, July 17, 2010.

Performing in Le Grand Dôme in FranceJuly 17, 2010.

Seven years ago this month, I was invited to the Festival Hmong: Tsiab Ntuj Sov event in Villebon-sur-Yvette, France as a guest singer.

See more photos here.

Unbeknownst to me, an all-time favorite Hmong music artist of mine was to perform on the same stage that night. It made sense; he’s Hmoob Fabkis and I am in his home country.

When I was told, I remember being calm, happy, & simply focused on my performance. You know -- no biggie.

Ly Dang, Lis Ntaj is his name.

Ly Dang’s soothing, countertenor voice and beautifully crafted love songs filled the soundtrack of my childhood. My parents and oldest sister, Nancy played music by him and his colleagues (Ly Ntxheb & Ly Yeng of Xanakee) on a daily basis. I knew the lyrics before I knew the title of their songs. And I loved their music more than I could express it.

Ly Dang, July 17, 2010.

Ly Dang, July 17, 2010.

The evening party of Festival Hmong: Tsiab Ntuj Sov had started. I could hear people entering Le Grand Dôme and talking amongst themselves. One MC spoke in French, another in Hmong. I wasn’t up yet, but was seated alone backstage, getting myself mentally prepared for a once-in-a-lifetime performance. I was in France after all.

From the corner of my eye, I saw people moving backstage, making way for someone. An individual appeared to be heading to a dressing room while carrying a garment bag over its head.

“Focus, Pagnia. You’ve got a performance here.”

I turned my body away, took a deep breath, and refocused as the crowd got louder. It felt like no more than five minutes had passed.

“Nyob zoo, Pajnyiag. Kuv yog Lis Ntaj.”

I looked up and saw a hand stretched out before me. Ly Dang was right in front of me.

I’m not sure what I did or what I said. But tears began to roll down my face...profusely. It was so bad, I could've started hyperventilating if I didn’t control it.

And I couldn’t. Something came over me.

My make up artist, personal assistant, best friend, & photographer in France, Pa Kou Xiong. (Ly Dang took this rare photo of us!)

My make up artist, personal assistant, best friend, & photographer in France, Pa Kou Xiong. (Ly Dang took this rare photo of us!)

I apologized to him while wiping my endless tears and thinking about how sorry I was because my make up artist, Pa Kou would need to reapply my make up.

At the same time, I wanted him to know that no words could express my love and appreciation for his music. And so it was expressing itself right now, uncontrollably, in the form of tears. Tears of complete love and appreciation.


It’s been seven years since that night in France. I don’t remember the exact conversation I had with Ly Dang. But I definitely know the impact his music has made on my life since I was a little girl.

So, to Ly Dang:

Performing in France and taking a quick photo with Ly Dang, July 17, 2010.

Performing in France and taking a quick photo with Ly Dang, July 17, 2010.

Lis Ntaj,

Yog muaj txoj hmoo koj nyeem txog kuv tsab blog no, kuv vam thiab cia siab tias koj tseem noj qab nyob zoo. Tom qab ntsib koj, kuv rov mus vaj mus tsev nco txog kuv tsev neeg Hmoob uas nyob Fabkis Teb nrog rau lub sijhawm tshwj xeeb xya xyoo dhau los uas tau txoj hmoo ntsib koj uas yog kuv ib tug qauv zoo rau txoj kev hu nkauj. Tu siab peb tsis tau nyob ua ke ntev tiam sis kuv cia siab tias peb yuav rov qab sib ntsib, tau hu nkauj ua ke, thiab sib pom dua. Koj cov fans nrog rau kuv uas nyob thoob ntiaj teb tseem cia siab heev tias peb yuav tau rov qab hnov koj lub suab thiab koj cov nkauj. Ua tsaug rau koj cov nkauj uas tau cawm, tau pab, thiab tau kho peb lub neej. Nyob zoo koj nawb mog.

Sau npe,
Pajnyiag Xyooj

 

YOUR TURN! Are you a fan of Ly Dang? What memories do you have with his beautiful music? As always, please leave a comment below!

Happy Birthday, "Plhis Suab"!

Plhis Suab is officially 1!

I recently came across a short video just days before the release of my album, Plhis Suab. I was smiling in the background, watching my little niece Scarlett, whose only way to express her excitement was to dance, squat, and kiss newly printed Plhis Suab posters on the ground.

Fast forward to July 2017.

Scarlett now speaks in full sentences, sings with Elsa and Moana, and can give “the eye” to her Niam Tais Pajnyiag for no reason. I can’t believe how quickly the year has gone.

But I’m grateful. So grateful.

Because of Plhis Suab, I was able to do some things for the first time, hear empowering stories from you, and make some of the best music memories yet.

Today, I celebrate Plhis Suab’s 1st birthday with a sweet trip down memory lane. Join me in this celebration & leave a comment below!

July 2016

After the official release in MN, I wrote you a love letter and tens of thousands of you responded with an outpour of love.

August 2016

At last! Plhis Suab became available on iTunes! 

The "Plhis Suab: Track By Track" Video Series" was released, and I took you on a brief journey of each song in the new album.

October 2016

It had been some time since I played Plhis Suab at home, and I was grateful. In this #ArtistConfession, I shared why.

 

November 2016

The Plhis Suab: The Story video (above) was released, and you showed me so much love. 

I also told you about how one fan influenced me to create Plhis Suab.

And then performed music from Plhis Suab for the first time. It became one of my most favorite performances ever.

December 2016

I created a little holiday gift just for you, featuring music from Plhis Suab!

It was also a first for me in Fresno; meeting fans at the Hmong New Year (left)!

January 2017

When one of my singing idols got a copy of my new album, I had to share it with you.

March 2017

I reminisced about how the font of my album title came to be. 

Then after a month of casting, the Hluav Taws Music Video Cast Family (below) finally met and shot my first music video. The cast taught me so much. For example, there are angels among this earth, some you've yet to meet, who share the same vision as you and truly want to help you bring it to life. 

April 2017

Plhis Suab gave me the chance to do my first ever keynote concert!

Hluav Taws was released as my first music video of an original song (below). 

May 2017

My producer, Tchoua Xiong and I created a 15-minute mash-up with five original songs, including music highlights from Plhis Suab and then I performed in front of thousands at the Hmong Music Festival in Fresno, CA. This special set was a first for me!

June 2017

The Hluav Taws music video was showcased at the Qhia Dab Neeg Film Festival with Director Kong Lor in attendance!

July 2017

The journey continues. Yes, indeed. I’m currently sowing seeds for what I want to bring into this world with Plhis Suab. There’s still so much to share, and I look forward to harvest time. I hope you'll be there, waiting for me.

From your hugs to your stories, backstage and in front of my booth, thank you so much for your love and support this past year. I felt it deep and pure.

Until next time…

Dream BIG,
Pagnia

"Hluav Taws" MV Showcase at Qhia Dab Neeg Film Festival 2017

EXCITING NEWS!

The "Hluav Taws" music video will be showcased at the Qhia Dab Neeg Film Festival on Friday, June 23rd! Not only, get a chance to learn more about the MV from the director himself, Mr. Kong Lor!

Join directors, actors, & visual artists on June 23 & 24 for the Qhia Dab Neeg Film Festival. Event is free and open to the public. RSVP via Eventbrite:

June 23rd: qdnff2017day1.eventbrite.com
June 24th: qdnff2017day2.eventbrite.com

A Dream Come True

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As a young child, in the days of pen and paper, my two older sisters and I would create our own version of the TV game show, Jeopardy!. Whenever Nancy, the oldest, played Alex Trebek, I could always bet that “music” was going to be a category.

When it came to the $600 question, the hardest one in the music category, I always knew the answer.

But I’d lose.

The answer was a female singer whose name I couldn’t pronounce. But I knew her music. I knew her voice. And Nancy played her songs consistently in our shared bedroom nearly every day. But I still couldn’t say her name.

After several makeshift Jeopardy! games, I finally got it.

say-LEEN dee-AHN.

As long as I can remember, Celine Dion has been the ultimate singing icon I’ve adored and admired. She is la crème de la crème. Just watch this live performance.

Celine’s the one artist I’ve never seen live, but have always dreamt of seeing one day. Finally, more than twenty years later, on my 32nd birthday this month, I made it a reality.

As I sat down in my seat, I began to cry.

So this is what a dream come true feels like.

You see, Celine has shaped me as a vocal artist and a performer before and throughout my singing career. When my family and I couldn’t afford vocal lessons, I studied her voice. When I lost inspiration, I watched her videos. When I thought of a singing career, I thought of her.

And now, I was only 15 feet away from my idol.


So this is what a dream come true feels like.

The night was spectacular.
I sung.
I danced.
I stared in awe.
I touched her hand.
I locked eyes with her.

And when the curtains closed, it was over. Just like that. I waited. More please? It felt like the party had just started, and I didn’t want to leave. I lingered in the energy of the beautiful, red Colosseum until I knew she wasn't returning.

As I walked out the building, I made the decision that next time, I'd book tickets for two separate consecutive shows. 'Cause you know, all those times I finally won Jeopardy! should cover it.

ARE YOU A CELINE DION FANATIC TOO? What do you love most about her? Bring on the love in the comments below!

Until next time…

Dream BIG,
Pagnia

HMF 2017: 7 Photos You Haven't Seen

Nyob zoo! 

Hope you've been great!

For me, the last few weeks have been crazy amazing.

Three days ago, I turned another year wiser. 
I saw my IDOL perform live (more to share soon)! 
And I performed on the HMF 2017 stage in Fresno, CA. 

So today, I'm giving you a brief look behind the scenes of my HMF experience. ENJOY!

Dressing Roommates
You know how just one person can change an entire experience? Well, I had two people during HMF 2017. 75% of my weekend was spent with these two talented artists, Pat Her of SuddenRush & Alicia Thao, the HMF 2017 Rising Star winner; and I wouldn't have had it any other way. (Missing my third roommate, Miss Youa Xiong - see below!)

VIP Meet & Greet
This is still one of my most favorite experiences that I get to have in this lifetime -- meeting YOU in person. 

Illusion
"Hmo no, koj ncaim ntawm kuv mus...mus nyob deb deb..." Right before this shot, I shared with this humble & talented band just how special their songs are to me. As a young teenager, the only way I could hear their music was through the local Hmong radio. So every evening at 5 PM, I'd patiently wait for someone to dedicate a song to a loved one, hoping s/he chose one of Illusion's songs. Decades later, it was awesome to hear them live at HMF 2017!

Solo Artists
A brief moment of a few of us solo artists hanging out before meeting our VIP guests. Everyone was so chill and relaxed. It was all looooove. L to R: Blia Lor, yours truly, Youa Xiong, & Alicia Thao.

Kub Vaj & Band
The artist, Kub Vaj (to my right), is a true gentleman, and his band is really an extension of that too. When the first band, So Siab, had a bass go out during their live set, Kub's band stepped in, ran up, & shared their bass with the band immediately. No second thoughts. So grateful to have met these humble & inspiring musicians! 

HMFStaff.jpg

HMF Staff
How do you know when someone is passionate about something he's doing? When his family is there, in full support of him. I had a great time meeting the family of one of the HMF organizers, Kongtxou Xiong (to my right). They made sure artists were on time, had water, had food, knew where to go, etc. And they reminded me that family is second to none, and that they're the reason you can still stand at the end of a long, hard day. So much respect for this family! Thank you!

SuddenRush
Kham, Roger, Pat, Joe, & Chee Nou Her. A genuinely warm, giving family of musicians. So much love and respect for all of you. And I will visit Canada one day soon!

YOUR TURN! Are there images you captured from HMF 2017 that I haven't seen? Tag me on social media -- I'd love to see your experience!

Until next time...

Dream BIG,
Pagnia

[CLOSED] Enter Pagnia's HMF 2017 Ticket Contest!

Are you a high school student?
Do you live in the state of California?
Do you dream big? 


If you answered "YES" to all three questions, you have a chance to: 

WIN TWO (2) FREE HMF 2017 TICKETS!

You may be wondering: why these requirements?

As long as I've loved music, music wasn't always within my grasp. I looove live shows, but I didn't get to watch my first live concert until college. In other words, experiencing live music while in high school was scarce, despite my love for music.

Less money + less freedom = no Shania Twain concert. Not only, my parents' #1 priority was raising us seven kids.

I know there are many Hmong high school students who feel the same way.

That's why I created my HMF 2017 Ticket Contest.

I want Hmong high school students who love music to have access to live shows in their local area. And of course, I want them to dream BIG

So is that you?

HOW DO I ENTER?

Each entrant must:

  1. Write a response, in 150 words or less, to this question: If you knew you could not fail, what would you do? 

  2. Provide a copy of your 2016-2017 student ID card.

  3. Introduce yourself & attach both files above in an e-mail.

  4. Send the e-mail to pagnia@pagniaxiong.com by 11:59 PM Pacific Time on Monday, May 22, 2017.

By submitting an e-mail entry submission for the purposes of the Contest, you agree to the Official Rules

I'M UNDER 18. CAN I STILL ENTER?

Yes! If you're under 18 years old, to participate in the contest, you must first obtain consent from a parent or legal guardian prior to your e-mail entry submission. Receipt of e-mail entry submission will be evidence of entrant’s parent or guardian’s acceptance (on behalf of entrant) of all terms contained in the Official Rules. In other words, sending an e-mail entry submission means you've received permission to participate from your parent or legal guardian, and s/he agrees to the Official Rules on your behalf.

HOW WILL WINNERS BE SELECTED?

Three (3) winners will be selected based on originality, clarity of expression, and creativity by a panel of judges. 

WHEN WILL WINNERS BE NOTIFIED?

Winners will be notified via e-mail by 11:59 PM Eastern Time on Tuesday, May 23, 2017. If a winner cannot be contacted within 24 hours after the first attempt to contact him/her, an alternate potential winner will be selected in his/her place from the remaining, non-winning eligible entries.

So there you have it! Remember - you have until this MONDAY, MAY 22 to send in your e-mail entry submission. 

GOOD LUCK!

Dream BIG,
Pagnia

P.S. For the full contest details, please refer to the Official Rules.

My HNDC 2017 Experience

Performing at the HNDC Friday Night Concert, April 21, 2017. Photo by Pa Chia Xiong

Performing at the HNDC Friday Night Concert, April 21, 2017. Photo by Pa Chia Xiong

One of the last things I said at the 18th Hmong National Development Conference (HNDC) to a new friend I met (Nyob zoo, Misty!) before leaving Sunday morning was:

“What happened here, what I felt this weekend, is not what I see in the media, on Facebook, or on the news. We (the Hmong community) have so much to be proud of, to celebrate, and to be hopeful for.”

She nodded in agreement as we continued to discuss our HNDC experience.

What is HNDC?

Every two years in April, Hmong National Development (HND) holds their biennial 3-day conference in a Hmong-populated community across the US - each time in a different city.

An early morning view of Milwaukee, Wisconsin

An early morning view of Milwaukee, Wisconsin

This year was Milwaukee, Wisconsin. In 2019, it’ll be Sacramento, California.

HND will tell you that this conference brings together community leaders, professionals, advocates and youth from across the country (& world) to have critical conversations around key issues in the Hmong community such as education, civic participation, and entrepreneurship.

I will tell you that HNDC is where some of the brightest, most powerful, most vocal, and most generous individuals from all backgrounds in the Hmong community gather to inspire, connect, & build a stronger community together -- in workshops, in hallways, in hotel rooms (sometimes it’s the only place to meet), after the banquet at 2 AM, and even at the airport. From your flight arrival to your flight departure, you will feel the incredible energy of HNDC.

HNDC is a space, a time to connect with some of the most passionate individuals who care deeply about the present and future of the Hmong community. And just so you know, if you're in attendance, you are one of them.

Who is HNDC for?

The conference is open to the public. Yes, you will see many college students, professionals, and community leaders.

But as a Hmong American, if you care about yourself, your family, and/or your Hmong community, it’s for you.

What’s so great about this conference?

7:45 AM. First day. Exhibitors on the top. Registration area, bottom left corner.

7:45 AM. First day. Exhibitors on the top. Registration area, bottom left corner.

By the end of the conference, like I said during my HNDC Friday Night Concert performance, I feel like I’m leaving an amazing family reunion. The energy of this event is so powerful and inspiring that I go home with a high and the conference blues that last for at least a week. (You need a couple days to recover.)

Honestly, this one blog post cannot do justice to the joy, the connection, the energy, & the inspiration I gained from HNDC.

You simply have to experience it yourself.

But in today’s blog, I hope you get a small taste of what I mean.

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"Use this book as an excuse to talk to your parents [about bride price]. We [Hmong females] don't have a place to negotiate [the bride price]. The only place is with your parents." In my first workshop, author Mai Neng Moua presented and read from her new book, The Bride Price. She is a Hmong American literary icon, an open book, & a bold Hmong woman. I adore her.

"Kuv muab ntshaw dhau xwb." In a workshop, I learned of Pai Yang, a widow with eight children who had a genuine passion to purchase an old auto shop. That auto shop is now known as Milwaukee's Asian Market or Phongsavan. With a recent expansion, Pai emotionally explained why her new $4.2 million building includes a large community space: she felt that as a single Hmong mother with children to raise, she wouldn't be where she is today as an entrepreneur without the community's support. This was her gift to the community. What an inspiration.

"You were all chosen for a reason." Before sound check, Kouser Yang (standing), one of the HNDC Friday Night Concert organizers, gave the performers warm praise, uplifting encouragement, and an extra boost to give it our all that night. Many thanks to the HNDC Friday Night Concert team!

"I was hoping someone else would step up. [...] But I knew I needed to be the change." This was said by Susan Pha (far right), a councilwoman who became the first person of color ever to be elected to the Brooklyn Park City Council, the second most diverse city in MN. This panel of politicians was mind-blowing. This was no debate. This was pure, honest inspiration from those who are paving the way. 

"I want to be the best mayor of Elk Grove. I happen to be Hmong." During his keynote speech, Mayor Steve Ly left audience members with numerous bold, empowering stories and statements like this. I really don't know where to begin. For now, what a powerhouse. 

"Do you want to change the world? Start by thinking you're crazy enough to." This is how the Asian Penguins started and ended their workshop. I know nothing about computer operating systems, but these young middle schoolers do. And they inspired me to the core. Because of the work they do, they showed me the meaning of giving back, helping others, and working together to accomplish a goal. Folks, the future is bright with these young leaders.

At the Leadership Banquet on Saturday night, if only you could've heard the stories of the five 2017 IMPACT Award recipients: Cha Vang, Chai Moua, Chaleng Lee, Choua Yang, and Jacky Lee along with the University of CA - Merced Hmong Student Association, the 2017 HSA Spirit Award recipient. We have so much to celebrate in the Hmong community. 

A Hmong brother I aspire to be like. Tou Ger Bennett Xiong needs no introduction. As one of the MCs of this year's HNDC, he was a joy to see every day. (This was Tou Ger's 17th HNDC, out of 18. Wow!) Thank you for all you do and for being you, Tou Ger.

"Being here on this stage tonight doing what I love AND attending the HNDC— that high is going to last for at least a month." I said this on Friday night during the concert, and I meant every word. (Photo by Pa Chia Xiong)

IT'S YOUR TURN! Never been to HNDC and have a question? Or attended HNDC and had a great time? Leave a comment below. I love hearing from you!

Until next time...

Dream BIG,
Pagnia

Meet The Hluav Taws Cast: Part 3

Putting out a casting call for my first ever original music video seemed daunting at the time. Yet as everything unfolded, it was one of the most inspiring parts of producing the Hluav Taws music video.

As auditions and interests came from all over the US, I soon realized how passionate my Hmong brothers and sisters are in acting. I'm truly grateful to have shared this "first" with six incredibly passionate and kind actors, and am pleased to present them to you in this 3-part series.

Note: This the final part of the "Meet the Hluav Taws Cast" series.
Find the previous parts below!

Meet the Hluav Taws Cast: Part 1

Meet the Hluav Taws Cast: Part 2

Meet the Hluav Taws Cast: Part 3


See Xiong
Hickory, North Carolina

How long have you been acting? Do you have plans to act in future productions?

I have always loved being in little skits and plays all throughout school since I was a kid. I haven't acted for a very long time, so this was a wonderful experience for me.

What drew you to audition for Pagnia Xiong’s Hluav Taws music video?

What drew me to audition was the strength in the song, I mean, have you listened to it? When I'm upset, hurt or in pain, this song literally shouts my name. It reads everything in me, from the inside out. When I found out how the music video was going to be, I really was so excited. Honestly reading the script and the roles, literally built up my courage to audition. It's such a strong way of showing that everyone is different and has their own different struggles, which many people seem to forget.

Name one highlight and one challenge you took away after the production.

The highlight of doing the music video was bonding so strongly with people I've never even met before until that day. And of course adding more bruises to the original one on my knee. The biggest challenge was to show emotions to something that I've never experienced before, but I was actually having a rough couple of days, and an emotional morning along with a long day of work. I was able to use my pain, for that part. I was able to express my struggles in my actual life, into this strong and powerful music video.

If you could give someone who’s interested in acting a piece of advice, what would tell him/her?

My acting advice, it's only difficult if you make it difficult. Think deep within yourself and you will find the character. If you don't believe in your character, why would anyone else?

Follow See Xiong
Facebook Page
Instagram: @aybeesea_


Lysanias Pakou Yang
Maiden, North Carolina

How long have you been acting? Do you have plans to act in future productions?

I actually never had any professional acting gigs before, just here and there for school during high school. Like many others individuals like myself, I believe we are all stars just waiting to be found and to shine out. It's not easy to get into the acting world whether it is within the Hmong community or Hollywood. You really have to know the right people and constantly put yourself out there. I would love to continue pursuing acting in the future and take on role out of my comfort zone. You know, just to feel the challenge and allow myself to grow through the experience.

What drew you to audition for Pagnia Xiong’s Hluav Taws music video?

First and foremost, I always loved Pagnia Xiong's music and so this opportunity was like a golden ticket to get to work side by side with my favorite artist. I mean who wouldn't take the chance, right?  Lol...I was still kinda shy and unsure, but my good friend Nancy, tagged me on the casting call and when you have someone who believes in you, that really makes a difference. So thank you, Nancy, for the push of encouragement and believing in me. When I first read the script for Hnub's part, I felt a tug in my heart because this role hit so close to home for me and when I was practicing her part at home before the audition, I feel like I was actually HNUB - living in the moments of fear, hurt, and determined to stand back up on my feet and face life. I think once a role hits so close to your heart and you can feel the energy flow through you, even if you're nervous and shy, your heart will constantly whisper to you "give it a try." 

Name one highlight and one challenge you took away after the production.

I was kinda worried I might cry for real on the set, but I ended up doing pretty well (I think). I realized that I have really moved on from my past. I can re-live in the moments like Hnub, but this time no more real tears.

If you could give someone who’s interested in acting a piece of advice, what would tell him/her?

Live in the moment of the character.  Be natural. 

We've all seen fighting scenes where we definitely tell the characters are over doing it, like when the good guy does a little kick and the bad guy goes flying 10 yards, lol. Be yourself with a dose of the character; don't over act it and let your role naturally flow through you.

Follow Lysansias Pakou Yang
Facebook Page
YouTube Channel
Photo by: MTK Studio

*I noticed a lot of our Hmong women in their mid-40s have dark spots. Therefore, I'll be launching my first make-up tutorial on how to cover dark spots on middle-aged Hmong women soon.