A top 5 winner in the Miss Universe pageant, Miss Vietnam H’Hen Niê won against all odds, made history, and is now setting an amazing example by donating all of her cash winnings, not once, but twice to combat poverty and help educate children in her village community of Dak Lak.
H’Hen Niê bested 89 contestants and placed 5th in the Miss Universe pageant held in Thailand on December 17. She went on to become the first Miss Universe Vietnamese contestant in history to become a top 10 finalist. A year before, she became the first Miss Vietnam from an ethnic minority called the Rade, making up only five percent of the country’s population.
H’Hen Niê rose quickly to success after leaving her rural community where her family works as coffee farmers. Although the custom in her community is for young women to start a family early, she decided to follow her dreams instead. She was determined to go to college and moved to the city of Saigon.
“I was born in a family with six brothers and sisters.”
“At 14 years old my parents told me to find a husband, but I told them that instead, I had to follow my dreams,” said H’Hen Niê.
She graduated from college, working as a nanny to pay her way, and later began working as a model in 2014. Soon after, she appeared on a reality television show, Vietnam’s Next Top Model in 2015, where she became a finalist. From there, she honed her skills and went on to win the Miss Universe Vietnam pageant.
At her mother’s advice, she gave away her $10,000 prize to help disadvantaged children by opening a library in the countryside. She hopes to help local children learn to read.
After she won, her parents changed their tunes about marriage.
“After I won the title she’s forbidden me to fall in love in this period. Mom worries about the public. She wants me to fulfill the duty of a beauty queen in the 2-year period.”
“That’s why when I promised to give 70 percent of my money for disadvantaged children, my mom told me to give all of the money,” said H’Hen Niê.
“Money can be earned later,” she added.
After becoming a finalist in Miss Universe pageant, she once more donated her winnings of 1 billion Vietnamese Dong (VND), or about $43,000 dollars.
According to a post on the Miss Universe Vietnam Instagram account:
“She wants to complete her promise with her village to provide scholarships for poor students and complete her social project, Room to Read (build more libraries in rural areas, support schoolgirls around the world). Such an amazing act of her.”
On her personal Instagram account, H’Hen Niê elaborated on why she continues to follow her mother’s example of generosity.
“It is the highest amount of money i got so far. However, my Mom said that in case I didn’t have to earn it hard, I should give this money to others. It was wonderful things I’ve learned from my Mom ❤️
Thus, I want to spend all my prize on developing society and building community campaigns. I desire to make my promise with my beloved village, supporting poor children with scholarships, completing @roomtoread campaign to be able to build more friendly library, as well as supporting female students all over the world.
Thank you very much, all of you, from the bottom of my heart ❤️”
As well as helping kids learn to read, H’Hen Niê wants to be an advocate for womens’ rights. As a top 5 contestant in the Miss Universe pageant, H’Hen Niê was required to answer a question asked by the host, Steve Harvey about the #MeToo movement.
“The #MeToo movement has sparked a global conversation. In response, some have said that the world has become too politically correct. Do you think the #MeToo movement has gone too far?,” asked Harvey.
“I don’t think it has gone too far. Because protecting human’s well-being, protecting sexual harassment victims, protecting women is the right thing to do,” H’Hen Nie answered in Vietnamese.
H’Hen Niê is setting an amazing example for the entire world. She’s a heroine we can all look up to.