January Community Service pt. 2 – SF Sleeping Bags Project

On Sunday, January 25, 2015, Crystal, Cindy, and I volunteered to help pass out blankets to the homeless in San Francisco.  The project was spearheaded by our very own MVNCI Advisor, Jessica Do, who is committed to completing service projects like this every year.  This year, she started a donation drive and raised enough money to purchase ~150 blankets for the homeless!  This project marks her second year of giving back to the less fortunate; the year prior, she raised money to pass out sleeping bags.  Jessica’s friends Eric, Khoi, Christine, Cong, and Triet also joined in to help out that day!  Upon seeing the piles of blankets for the first time, I initially thought we would have a long day ahead of us.  We helped pack all the blankets into 2 cars and set off on our way to Glide Church, which is located in the Tenderloin district of San Francisco.

Glide Church prepares free meals 3 times a day for 374 days of the year, serving up to 2,560 people a day.  We arrived to pass out blankets to those standing in line waiting for lunch to be served.  Passing out all the blankets took less time than I had initially thought since they were highly sought after; people were so grateful to receive them.  Completing this project left me with the feeling of only having wished that we had more blankets to pass out since not everyone was able to get one.  We were very glad to have the opportunity to help Jessica carry out her project, and to personally see how something simple as a blanket can mean so much to someone who doesn’t have much.  We are definitely looking forward to supporting Jessica’s next project!

Posted in MVNCI 2014 Royal Court, Uncategorized Tagged , , , , |

January Community Service: Loaves & Fishes Family Kitchen

On Saturday morning, January 24, 2015, Cindy and I had the pleasure of volunteering at the Loaves & Fishes Family Kitchen, located at The Lodge in Morgan Hill.  The Lodge is an apartment community dedicated to helping senior citizens lead independent lives.  It is one of the dining room locations that the Loaves & Fishes organization services.  Their mission is to serve meals to low-income families and seniors across the Santa Clara county.

We arrived on Saturday morning to help out during the breakfast service and were greeted by the two lead cooks, Albert and Ethan, as well as another volunteer, Johnny.  Breakfast is self-service, like buffet style, at the facility since it has been found to be the most efficient way for guests to get food, so most of the volunteer work took place in the kitchen!  We were first set to work bringing breakfast items and utensils out to set-up in the dining area.  As the guests helped themselves to breakfast, we assisted Albert and Ethan with prepping lunch.  On the lunch menu for later that day was salad and chicken noodle soup.  We helped with washing and chopping romaine lettuce, slicing tomatoes, and shredding and dicing grilled chicken.  For someone like myself who doesn’t cook regularly, I had an enjoyable time exercising my novice knife skills!  As breakfast time was finishing up, we went out in the dining area to help bus tables, push in chairs, and bring used dinnerware inside to be washed.


Photos c/o Suzann Muy
It was a fun and eventful day, and we got to meet some very vibrant people!  For more information about the Loaves & Fishes organization and volunteer opportunities, please click here.
Posted in MVNCI 2014 Royal Court Tagged , , |

2014 Asian American Women’s Alliance Awards Banquet

On Friday, May 9, 2014, MVNCI Court Members were once again invited  to attend the Asian American Women’s Alliance (AAWA) Awards Banquet, which was hosted at the Crowne Plaza in Milpitas this year!  The event is annually held to honor outstanding Asian American students and professionals, and to celebrate their achievements by presenting them with scholarship and recognition awards.  Read about the 2013 Court Members’ experience last year here.  Since purple was the event’s theme color this year, we all planned to wear purple/lavender evening gowns to show our support.  Our first duty upon arriving was to greet guests and direct them to the registration tables.  We were more than thrilled to take pictures with guests and to explain about MVNCI to those who were curious!  

Photo c/o of Kim Nguyen; Court Members with AAWA President Dawn Chu and Staff Member Mindy Chu
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Photo c/o Kim Nguyen; Court Members with 2010 MVNCI 1st Princess Kim Nguyen
As the evening program began, we were treated to a variety of entertainment as we ate dinner, such as a modern ballroom dance performance.  Later on in the evening, Court Members were asked to help sell raffle tickets to guests for an opportunity to win special prizes later in the evening.  It was inspiring to see so many guests in attendance show their support for this organization; it speaks volumes to their great contributions to the community.  It was equally inspiring to hear about the accomplished award winners of the night!
Just like the previous year, a cultural fashion show was put on to showcase different Asian cultural outfits.  Countries represented that night included Vietnam, China, Burma, India, South Korea, and Japan.  Court Members were also asked to participate in this entertainment segment for the night.  We didn’t know what country we would be representing until the day of.  It  was decided that Christina, Mandy, and Cindy would represent Vietnam, while I would represent China.  Each of us was teamed up with a partner who also wore a corresponding cultural outfit to walk the stage together.  Coincidentally, all of the Court Members’ cultural outfits happened to share colors of red!
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Photo c/o Kim Nguyen
The most exciting part of the night happened when MVNCI was asked to be interviewed by Vietoday Television, who was there to cover the event.  Mandy was bestowed the honor to speak on behalf of MVNCI about the AAWA event and she rocked it (!!!) as we stood beside her for support.


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Photo c/o of Kim Nguyen
MVNCI Court had a great time at the 2014 AAWA Awards Banquet and were fortunate to have met so many wonderful people that night.  We are grateful for the opportunity to partake in such an honorable event!  AAWA’s mission to support Asian American women through professional and personal growth closely aligns with MVNCI’s own mission, and we are more than pleased to support this event every year.  To learn more about the AAWA organization and their scholarship opportunities, please visit them at http://www.aawalliance.com/.
Posted in MVNCI 2014 Royal Court, MVNCI Events

Pageant Day Experience: Mandy – Miss Ao Dai, Miss Entreprenuer


As soon as I came back home, I threw myself in bed and closed my eyes, sinking into a deep sleep after a restless day.

March 30, 2014 had then ended.

The next morning, I woke up feeling surreal as I saw the two sparking crowns sitting on my desk. I am Miss Entrepreneur and Miss Ao Dai. Really? And slowly, I recalled all the flashbacks from yesterday.

It was 5:00AM in the morning that my alarm went off, waking my from a deep sleep. My hand reached out to switch it off as my eyes refused to open. Suddenly, I realized it was March 30 – Pageant day, the day that all of us from staff to contestants had been anticipating. I tried to sleep in for another 10 minutes then got up and got ready for the day. Julia was so kind that she gave me a ride to my makeup artist’s place, while hers is all the way to Fremont. We left the house at 6AM, bringing with us the delicious sandwiches prepared for us by her mom.

All of our contestants showed up gorgeous and charming with their makeup and hair done at the theater. I secretly got excited to see everyone in their beautiful Ao Dai and evening gowns of different colors, considering I had only seen them in black outfits for the last two months of practices. We were later assigned in two dressing rooms, and I was lucky to have be in room B with 5 other sisters. As we unpacked, we all knew that we needed help from each other, as changing time was short while all the gowns were complicated. Six of us took turn to do hair for each other and steam the Ao Dai’s. It was heartwarming to see our friendship had grown to be sisterhood after such a short time.

The show started promptly at 2 o’clock. After an introduction slideshow, 11 contestants lined up with their faces covered by Non La to start the opening dance. Our choreography, Mary, was such a sweet and talented dancer. Not only was she patient enough to correct all our mistakes, she also manages to have each movement incorporated in the dance showcase our gracefulness in Ao Dai at various angles. Because I was an amateur dancer in my high school for three years, the dance portion was not a challenge for me.

However, everything else was.

Our two MC Trami and Jet made a perfect duo. Jet had a great sense of humor that when paired up the Trami’s professionalism and elegance, they made the show much more interesting and lively than it would have been without them. With their handling transitions of performances cleverly, the self-introduction, Ao Dai, and evening gown portions went by in a blink of an eye. It was hard to imagine how we changed our dresses in just a few minutes. I remember running on and off stage in heels, and all the pains that my feet previously felt were magically gone. By the time I had time to take my first gulp of water, it was already intermission.

After intermission, some talented contestants went on to showcase their musical talents, including dancing, singing, and playing piano. The following was the most nerve-wracking portion: Top 7. As I lined up with 10 other beautiful contestants on stage, the stage lighting hit me. My head began to spin, while my lips continued putting on a nice upward curve.

“Contestant number 9!”

It was my number. I did it. I did it! If anyone had held me at that time, he or she would have felt that my hands shivering and my legs shaking. I secretly thanked my three-year of dancing experience in high school, which allowed me to maintain a confident look on stage, regardless of how nervous I truly felt. Filled with joy and anxiety simultaneously, my mind decided to go blank. The next thing I knew was Mr. Jet read the question for me, and all I heard was the second half of the question. I tried to keep my voice from trembling, giving the best answer I possibly could, and returned they microphone to Mr. Jet immediately. I knew that if I had continued, my nervousness would have fully shown. At the same time, I knew that my answer was too short to be any convincing or appealing.

After we were excused from the stage, my fear started to grow bigger. I was almost certain that I would not make it to Top 5. Seeming to see tears threatening to roll down my face, Christina came to hold me close and said, “Don’t worry. You will be fine.” Although that small act did not completely calm me down, it managed to somewhat console my disappointment at that time. Christina with her caring personality and intelligence really deserved to become the Queen of MVNCI 2014.

There was nothing more frightening than not being called name after four spots out of top five were already taken. Nevertheless, I soon stopped worrying and started feeling thankful for the experience I had had, thinking that was the furthest I could go in the pageant. All of sudden, my name was called. I could not believe what was happening, until the cheering and applause woke me, urging me to step forward to join 4 other girls.

Top 5 question and answers went by fast. I no longer panicked as getting to Top 5 was a great achievement for me already. The last moment, also the most anticipated one, finally came: the crowning moment.

The first announced title Miss Entrepreneur surprisingly went to me. I still remember my worry when told about sponsorship project. As much as I loved to help other people, I always refrained from asking people for favor, as I did not want to create trouble for them. Vincent Ma, the inspiring speaker that trained us on how to raise funds for sponsorship, saw through my problem. He taught me some convincing ways to approach potential sponsors, and also encouraged me greatly by assuring me that true friends would help me no matter what. There I was, crowned for the title that appeared to be the most challenging and out of reach. I was more than happy to know my belief that hard work would always pay off was once again reinforced. And the moment my name was called again for Miss Ao Dai was also the moment I knew that I did not make in in Top 3. However, the joy and pride rising in me totally outweighed any potential disappointment. There was no words to describe how honored I felt to win double crowns. Looking at the audience, I saw my parents’ loving eyes and my friends’ widening smiles. I hope I had made them proud.

The sparkles from the two crowns on my desk disturbed my thoughts and brought me back to reality. Unconscious of the smile on my face, I felt like I was just awakened from a wonderful dream.

The pageant has been a phenomenal experience for me, and as soon as the previous journey was over, I am now in a new adventure as a MVNCI court member. I believe the coming year is going to be filled with new experience. I can’t wait to start assisting our Queen with her philanthropy project, which is to help Vietnamese orphans have a better life.

Last but not least, I would like to congratulate Christina on becoming the Queen of MVNCI 2014, Crystal on being the first contestant to win triple crowns, Miss Congeniality, Miss Talent and First Princess, in the history of MVNCI, Cathy on becoming the Second Princess, and Cindy on being Miss Social. You girls were all so beautiful and accomplished that you definitely deserved your titles. I am proud to have you all by my side through thick and thin before and during the pageant. And I truly wish that we would still be good sisters after the pageant is over, and even after our reign.


Posted in Mandy Dang, MVNCI 2014 Royal Court Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Pageant Day Experience: Cindy – Miss Social


The night before pageant, I was still running around trying to get everything packed up and ready to go for Sunday, and found out that my steamer wasn’t working; none of my outfits were going to be ready! While trying to review the questions I might get on Pageant day and fixing the steamer at the same time, I didn’t get to sleep until 2am – and next morning I had to wake up at 8am to get my makeup and hair done! While the makeup artist was working on me, I actually fell asleep. My Sunday wasn’t getting off to a great start – I misunderstood the start time and arrived late at the Campbell Heritage Theater – not the way I wanted to start the day, but it made me realize I would have to dig deep inside me to give it my all on stage.

When we got into the theater, we were assigned to our dressing rooms, changed into our white ao dai, and did the first run through of the day. I was nervous – nothing was set up yet, and we had to work as a team to get the correct markers down for where we were to stand on stage for the various parts of the pageant. We did our intro dance and the self-introduction and my heart started pumping fast and I got nervous, spoke very fast and pretty much forgot everything – and this was with nobody in the audience! Rehearsal was over in a flash and we have a little bit time to relax and collect ourselves, eat and steam our gowns before the show. I kept practicing my introduction and questions because public speaking still makes me very nervous. But, I wanted to be a 2014 court member, and knowing that I will have to speak in public, I have to make this an opportunity rather than an obstacle.

After two months of practices, the show goes by really fast; it felt like I blinked and we were at the end of the show. During the show, it felt like a race against time to get changed from one outfit to another. At one point, it felt like everybody was piled into the dressing rooms trying to help my other pageant sisters and I change, but once we step foot onto the stage, our expressions don’t show the craziness but only smiles.

Time to announce top 7, I was the 2nd to last to be called. I was nervous and I was told later that my friends and family were even more nervous then I. When I was called, my body just felt a little lighter but my nervousness never went away because I’m facing what I feel was the most challenging aspect of pageant;  the on stage interview. I was so nervous and I didn’t deliver the answer to my question as I had wanted to or even rehearsed. Top 5 got called and I didn’t make it, but I smiled and exited the stage. While I was packing up my things and changing back into my color ao dai, my friends and family tried to cheer me up by texting me, and saying how proud they were of all my hard work – that support definitely helped ease my sadness for my bobble onstage with my response.

The final time for us to come back on stage again, I didn’t expect to win anything, I was ready to walk off stage without a crown. I was shock when I got called to win the title of Miss Social! I was surprised and delighted while walking to center stage to receive my sash, crown and flowers. I felt like I didn’t let my family, friends and sponsor down after all! I was very happy with that accomplishment.

I want  to say  ‘Thank You’ to everyone who has been there for me and always believed in me. Being in this pageant has built up my confidence more than I can imagine – I can’t wait to share my court experiences with you, and give back to my community.

Posted in Cindy Nguyen, MVNCI 2014 Royal Court Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |