If you had asked me at age 10 what I wanted to be when I grew up, I wouldn't have had an answer for you.
You see, I was responsible for four younger siblings. I was to listen to elders and teachers, because I was told they always had the answers. And I was to fulfill the Hmong female role already created for me in my lifetime.
So when teachers at school told me that I could be anything I wanted to be, it was the one thing I didn't listen to. I didn't believe them, because it seemed like everyone else around me already had plans for me. And so, I accepted those plans.
It was only after I graduated from college that I realized I didn't like those plans at all.
Fast forward to November 22, 2015.
As I stood alongside giants in the Hmong American community in Oakdale, MN for the "Success That Looks Like Me" Banquet, I realized that what I wanted to be when I grew up didn't have anything to do with the amount in my bank account, or how well I fulfilled my role as a Hmong female, or how many letters I had behind my name.
What I wanted to be when I grew up was to be authentically and unapologetically ME.
If I hadn't chosen the kind of music I wanted to sing, or gone with my gut even when I was afraid, or taken back the control I gave others, or admitted to myself that music was IT...this photo wouldn't have been taken and Susan Kaying Pha and Nicolas Pha of Pha Publishing may not have connected with me for their project, "Success That Looks Like Me."
I can't go back to the interviews I did on Sunday night, but when I was asked about what advice I would give to aspiring artists to succeed, I would now say:
Be authentically and unapologetically YOU.
Photo Credit: Pachiaa