Welcome to the final feature of the Hmong Women in Music celebration!
Last, but not least, how do I begin to explain who this remarkable woman is? She and I have met only once for a brief moment and seem to miss each other every chance we get. Yet she feels like an older sister to me: so caring, brilliant, and loving.
Born in Laos and raised in Riverside County in beautiful Southern California, Sheng Moua has graced us with her musical gift since 1990. Over a 17-year span, she recorded her self-titled debut album featuring songs such as Ua Ib Siab and Nyiag Nyiam Koj. Moreover, she collaborated with multiple artists on individual tracks such as Yexus Hlub and one of the top Hmong love songs of all time, Ib Sim Neej. After her music career, she went on to pursue further education and a career in fashion. As you will find out, today, you can see her proudly supporting her talented son, the young dance sensation, Aidan Prince.
With great admiration and deep respect, I warmly introduce to you, Sheng Moua.
Hi Sheng! Let’s start off with getting to know you a bit. How would you describe yourself to someone who’s never met you before?
Sheng: I am the oldest of 4 kids. I was born in Laos but lived my whole life in America and now married with a 10-year-old son named Aidan Prince. I love music, fashion and food. My passion in life is be the best role model for myself, young girls, and my son. I love to talk because it’s a way to build friendships and network with people all around the world. I love to travel and try new things. Lastly, I am a believer in God and I give all my glory to him.
We’ve only met once, but from our online conversations & the time you’ve given to others in sharing your expertise, I know you as a very loving, positive, and uplifting woman. Who &/or what inspires you to be who you are today?
Sheng: My inspiration is my mom. I grew up in a traditional home but I always saw how independent my mom was. With no education, her goal was always for me to succeed and to live a life that she never had. My mom was my #1 supporter, my best friend, and the voice in my head that tells me everyday that I still could.
When and how did your music journey begin?
Sheng: I started singing in church. I also learned how to read and write in Hmong through singing. I attended a church conference and was selected to sing as a representative for my church after the original selected singer had to cancel for unknown reasons. I asked my cousin to quickly put together some music so I could sing something I had just learned. This was also my first time singing solo on stage. I was a nervous wreck but the moment the music came on, it took me to a place I never wanted to leave.
As a young Midwest fan, I saw you as a part of the beautiful and talented Hmong California female singers that were taking over the 90s Hmong music scene. (I secretly thought all the Hmong female singers from CA were GORGEOUS, you included!) Is there a special memory you have during that period of creating/performing music that you can share with us?
Sheng: Thank you. You are too sweet. The best memories I had from the 90’s were when I was able to travel across the states to sing and meet new friends. I started singing with Voltage as a guest singer and eventually started traveling with them. The person who gave me my first music track for the church conference was my cousin Paul Lo. He believed in me and invited me to sing with his band. Eventually I was invited to perform as a solo artist, travelled on my own as a special guest, and eventually found my own voice in the small music industry we had.
A Special Song
"I watched my cousin light up with joy and when the song was over, I could tell that the song was going to touch so many people. He had no idea the female feature was me."
- Sheng Moua on "Ib Sim Neej"
You and the Hmong band, High Voltage recorded a classic original Hmong love song that has garnered millions of views on YouTube, and back then, was most likely rewounded & played until the tape broke. Your song, "Ib Sim Neej" has lovers falling in love again every time it's covered online or at a party - still today. How did "Ib Sim Neej" come to be? What do you think of its remarkable success? And is there one unique thing you’d like fans to know about or take away from this song?
Sheng: Being featured on Ib Sim Neej along with Paul Lo, from Voltage, was such an honor. We had no idea the song would take on a journey of its own. I can still remember the time of day the song was recorded and the exact outfit I wore when we recorded the song. The best memory I have of Ib Sim Neej was when one of my cousins asked me to listen to a new song he had just heard and he felt that I had to hear it too. The music starts and I quietly smile recognizing the sweet melody of a song I had just recorded. I watched my cousin light up with joy and when the song was over, I could tell that the song was going to touch so many people. He had no idea the female feature was me.
I still get tagged, texts, or calls when Ib Sim Neej comes on the radio today. It makes me happy when I hear covers or people singing it at an event. I am taken back to a time when love was young and nothing else mattered.
Ib Sim Neej is a story of an everlasting love. What I have come to witness through all these years is that it has become a song that has connected people not only through the lyrics but the memories it has created from one person to another. The song has been played at weddings, for loved ones, for our parents, for our kids and just for pure joy. I want the meaning behind the song to represent us and the love we should always have for one another.
I am so humbled and grateful to be part of a piece of history that still lives on today.
"Ib Sim Neej" wasn’t the only song you recorded. What other music projects have you been a part of? What was the creative process like to bring them to life? Were there any surprises or lessons learned along the way?
Sheng: Aside from working with Voltage, I also worked with a group called TNT. I was featured on their album as well as a Christian album with Pastor Anthony Xiong. My greatest project was when I was able to record my own album. The hardest part about my music career was that I do not read music. Everything I learned was by just listening to the music. It was a hard journey because I did not grow up thinking that I was going to be a singer. The support of my parents were a big part of why I continued my passion for the arts.
Aside from music, you’ve gone on to expand and pursue other artistic endeavors. Can you share a bit more?
Sheng: I’ve always been interested in the art of fashion. As a young girl, my dream was to be a fashion designer. After getting my Bachelor of Science, I decided to pursue my love for Design and Visual Communications. I’ve had the honor of working with some of my greatest icons such as Patricia Fields, Giorgio Armani, Zac Posen and many more. My work has been published in over 50 magazines and I’ve been able to fulfill a passion that many people can only dream of.
One of the most admirable traits about you that I love is your drive to unapologetically live your dreams and help your family to do the same. How do you do that? What do you say or do to keep yourself on track in achieving your dreams?
Sheng: Although my parents were very supportive, I grew up with very traditional uncles. My love for fashion and always trying to set trends also set me far apart from everyone else. I was considered rebellious and the black sheep of the family simply because I did not want to look like everyone else. My ultimate drive is when I was told that I would never amount to anything because I am just a girl. I was so sheltered that the idea of moving away for college was frowned upon. I was out to prove that a girl could do anything and I was going to be that girl. My parents were my strength through it all because my dad gave me his savings for a Thailand trip and sent me to college. I am who I am today because I never allowed my gender to signify who I am. I am proud to say that I was the first girl in my immediate Moua family to attend college and obtain my graduate degree.
Is being an artist empowering to you? Do you recall a point in your life when you realized you had real power?
Sheng: We didn’t have social media platforms like we do today so my only way to connect with my fans were through air mail and actual face to face contact. I don’t know if I ever had real power but through my journey with music and fashion, I have met so many amazing people who have expressed their appreciation in what I do and represent for girls around the world. I just never allowed other people’s opinions of me to hinder what my goals were. With every girl that I spoke with, I heard a lot of their stories in mine. Being relatable and mentoring through my own experiences, I’ve been able to help a lot of young girls realize their own inner hero by empowering them to always reach for the stars no matter where they come from.
What are you currently working on? What do you want to accomplish with the next phase of your life/artistic career?
Sheng: My current project is 100% dedicated to my 10-year-old son, Aidan Prince. I still hold a full time job while my husband is working full time managing Aidan’s career. I still get asked to sing at events which is so humbling but I no longer perform as I used to. I can now use my own experience to help guide my son as he embarks on his own journey as a dancer, actor, and singer. Aidan is also known for his fashion sense because I am now styling him for all his photo & video shoots and red carpet events.
I feel like everything I’ve done thus far has prepared me for the best job ever, being Aidan’s mom, a mentor in life, setting goals, chasing dreams and never giving up on passion.
FINISH THE SENTENCE
You can follow me at...@iamshengx on Instagram.
If I could invite three music artists to dinner tonight, I would invite…Alicia Keys, Pharrell, and Justin Timberlake.
A young Hmong girl or woman who wants to be someone or do something with their life should know…Don’t allow your culture or the opinion of others to cloud your own desires in life. Work hard, lead with passion, and everything else will follow.
I am…a daughter, a sister, a wife, a mom but most importantly, I am a girl and living proof that anything is possible if you believe in yourself.
Sheng, it truly was my pleasure. Thank you for inspiring me and so many others with your talents & beautiful heart.
Could you feel Sheng's sweet soul all over this interview? I hope you found inspiration and more reason to celebrate Sheng Moua, the final feature of this year's Hmong Women in Music celebration.
YOUR TURN: Do you have any special words or a warm memory to share about Sheng and/or her music? Join the celebration by leaving a comment below!