The Other Side of the Table

Julie (Fang) Zhang & me backstage at the Hmong Music Festival, May 2012.

In March 2015, I shared with you what female vocal artist Julie (Fang) Zhang of Whyteshadows meant to me. What I didn’t mention was the first time I met her.

First, let me go play the first song I ever loved from Whyteshadows: Khaws Tog.

Ok. It was 2000. I had just turned 15 - still loved singing ‘cause I was still active in my sister duo Asianeyzed. It was the J4 weekend, and Whyteshadows were releasing their You Are the One album.

For months, my sister Pa Kou and I had been covering Khaws Tog for nearly every performance. So we loved Whyteshadows, especially the Fang sisters. I recalled there being many of them, so I wasn’t so sure who was who.

But I knew who Julie Fang was.

With only enough money to buy a CD, I walked up to the Whyteshadows booth and got a new album. There were many people there, but I saw a crack in the crowd that led straight to Julie.

She was standing on the other side of the table with her distinct, bright auburn hair sweetly bundled into two side buns. She. Was. So. Beautiful.

I don’t know what came over me (I always try not to stand out), but I wanted to talk to her.

"Hi. I think you are so talented. I love your voice. Please keep singing."

The end. I’m sure I said something along those lines. It was so brief, because I was so nervous.

And as if what I said was a surprise, she replied with a sweet smile: “Awww, thank you. Thank you so much!”  She melted my heart. 

That day, it was clear I couldn’t express how big of an impact she had on me, this 15-year-old girl who loved to sing. I turned away to leave immediately, and felt as if our conversation was incomplete, like I had more to say. 

Fast forward 12 years later...

I received an opportunity of a lifetime to share the stage with Julie at the Hmong Music Festival in Fresno, CA. She was still the same Julie Fang I had met years earlier -- still one of the most genuine and sweetest individuals I know.

And then last month during the Fresno Hmong New Year, we met again. It felt like that J4 weekend in 2000 - only this time, I was on the other side of the table.

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I didn’t realize what was happening. Then my sister Pa Kou started snapping photos.

And I lost it.

Memories flooded my mind.
Tears started brewing.
Full sentences were trying to be arranged.
Right in front of JULIE FANG.

I wanted to explain to her what this moment, this incredible moment meant to me. But I couldn't. We were only able to exchange words of love and praise for one another and a sweet hug.

And as Julie turned to walk away, once again I felt as if our conversation was incomplete, like I had more to say.

Julie, from the bottom of my heart, THANK YOU for inspiring a 15-year-old girl to dream BIG and to make those dreams come true. Sending you so much love!

Until next time…

Dream BIG,
Pagnia