She may not have won the crown, but Miss Vietnam H’Hen Niê has surely won the hearts of millions around the world.
At the Miss Universe 2018 competition, 26-year old Niê wowed the viewers with her fierce pixie look and unconventional style. She may have ended her stint among the top five finalists, the highest achievement for any candidate from from Vietnam, but Niê continues to inspire with the story of her journey from a small village in Đắk Lắk province to the center of the universe.
From humble beginnings, Niê worked her way to the top and has since used her influence to empower and educate others. Niê belongs to an ethnic minority called Rade, which comprises only five percent of Vietnam’s population of 95 million. Her parents, who raised Niê and her six siblings, were farmers. Niê shares that “I was told to find a husband, but I had to follow my dreams.”
Members of the community customarily marry in their teens, but Niê moved to Ho Chi Minh, where she worked as a maid, nanny, tutor, and leaflet deliverer to help pay for her studies and life in the city. She successfully broke into the modelling industry, which paved the way for winning the crown of Miss Vietnam and eventually the top tier of the Miss Universe competition.
Throughout her struggle for success, Niê has never forgotten her modest roots. The beauty queen is a global ambassador of Room to Read, a nonprofit organization that seeks to transform the lives of millions of children, particularly young girls in developing communities, by focusing on literary and gender equality in education.
“Growing up as an ethnic minority in Vietnam, I have seen firsthand that education is the only way to break the cycle of poverty. I want children everywhere to flourish, dream big and have the resilience to overcome obstacles.”
She also makes hefty donations to her advocacy. After winning as Miss Vietnam beauty pageant, Niê donated her entire $10,000 cash prize to support scholarships and build a library in the countryside. Upon returning to Vietnam, Niê once again astounded followers with the decision to donate her total Miss Universe earnings of $43,000.
She explained, “My mom said that in case I didn’t have to earn it hard, I should give this money to others.”
According to her management company, “She’s decided to donate 100% of her prize for social activities. She wants to complete her promise with her village to provide scholarships for poor students and complete her social project Room to Read, to build more libraries in rural areas and support schoolgirls around the world.”
The increasingly popular beauty queen received a rousing welcome home from thousands of admirers after the Miss Universe competition. With such determination, grace, and generosity, Niê will surely continue to have great success in her career and gain even more support for her charitable efforts.