I wasn't supposed to be a music artist. But I believe you must live the life you imagine for yourself (& dream BIG). Join me on this journey!

1994: What Was Pagnia Listening To?


Little Pagnia. I love her.

I had just turned nine and it was 1994. As you may know, I started singing at age 10, but music was a big part of my life before then.

Today, I’m taking you back 23 years ago to some sweet and not-so-sweet memories with a few 1994 hit songs.

Honestly, I was very happy listening to these songs again and to go down memory lane for you. Enjoy!

All-4-One - “I Swear”

“I see the questions in your eyes…” If you rewind and repeat that line over and over again, I’d be perfectly happy listening to it all day. I was only 9, but that line feels like a warm blanket over my heart every single time.

What I remember most about this song is when I would hear it. We owned the cassette tape, but my favorite way of listening to I Swear was on the radio. Every Sunday night was themed “Sunday Night Love Songs” on our favorite local radio station, 94.1 FM. You’d hear listeners calling in dedications and the top love songs all night long. It was the best.

My sister, Pa Kou had a small radio that was the perfect size to stay on her bed with her every night. As we shared a bedroom, every Sunday night, her radio would stay on long after the lights had gone off. I Swear was one of the songs that put me to sleep in the most loving way. 23 years later, it still gets me and always will. Now off to searching for All-4-One tour dates!

TLC - "Waterfalls"

When I hear this song, I think of one of my elementary school classmates. Stephanie was quiet and one of the few white kids who hung out with us Hmong kids. On this particular day, we were in music class.

At the end of the hour, the music teacher asked if anyone had a song or talent they wanted to share. Stephanie raised her hand and went up to the front. Never in a million years would I have guessed that (1) she would raise her hand and (2) she was going to do what she did next.

Stephanie rapped Left Eye’s entire part (03:50 - 04:35) with no stopping, no wincing, no second-guessing.

We were nine years old, living in a predominantly white community where most kids in our school probably weren't listening to TLC. When she was done, I remember feeling dumbfounded and I know the rest of the room felt it too.

Looking back, Stephanie showed me what confidence and courage looked like in front of kids who probably didn’t know her name and a teacher who knew little about her gift. 23 years later, I’m grateful to have sat in that classroom, to have known Stephanie, and to have watched her shine through Waterfalls.  

“Never dull your shine for somebody else.” - Tyra Banks

Boyz II Men - “I’ll Make Love to You”

This song is smooooooth and so sexy. The thing is, my memory of it isn't.

I'll Make Love To You became popular at the same time dance parties were booming for the first generation of Hmong American youngsters - my sister Nancy included. I have to say she and her generation had the toughest time growing up. They were the first ones born in America, which meant they were the oldest and had to be the “perfect” role model for us younger ones. So, whether directly or indirectly, my parents and our elders constantly put that responsibility upon Nancy.

One of her responsibilities was to not attend dance parties. And if she asked to go and if my mom gave in, she would need a little sibling and my mom herself to tag along.

The day came. The dance party was happening. And there I was with my mom and Nancy in the high school gym on Valentine’s Day. How romantic.

As I sat next to my mom and Nancy, I remember starting to like boys and secretly hoping someone would ask me to dance. (Oh, how I cringe! I can’t believe a nine-year-old thinks this way.)

I never got asked to dance, but Nancy did. And it was to I’ll Make Love to You.

While they danced, all I could think was, “Thank goodness my mom doesn’t understand English well.” ;)

I HOPE YOU ENJOYED THAT! If so, please let me know down in the comments below. I’d love to do more of these throwback blogs for you in the future! 

Until next time…

Dream BIG,

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Part III - Making a Dream Come True