As I clicked the “Apply” button on the site page, I knew it was going to be a waiting game to see if I would be called to be a part of MVNCI. A few months went by, and I got an email and phone interview regarding my MVNCI application—two days later I was notified that I was accepted into the MVNCI pageant! I was thrilled and eager to begin my pageant journey—with an open mindset knowing that I wanted to delve into and learn more about my Vietnamese culture alongside other girls of the same background.
Being a contestant was a learning experience on its own—with confidence, self-appreciation, self-growth, and learning how to be beautiful in the way you talk and carry yourself around others. I’ve never really had a lot of Vietnamese girl friends of my own, so being surrounded by other MVNCI contestants was a new experience altogether for me since I grew up in a suburban town away from a Vietnamese community. Nonetheless, the practices, workshops, and hangouts that the contestants and I all had created amazing memories that I still hold dear to my heart today. I learned a lot more about myself in these two months alone—the how’s and why’s as to why I should be confident and proud to be a first-generation Vietnamese American, how beauty is only the latter to success and confidence in a woman, having a heart of grace and mercy IS beauty, and that your own successes aren’t defined by a title that is given to you but by the experiences and growth that you’ve gained from it.
As our last practice on March 5th ended, I collapsed on my bed with a sigh of relief. A few minutes went by and I jolted up in bed, remembering that I had to iron my Ao Dais and evening gown for the big, awaited day—March 6th. I stayed up until 2AM preparing my luggage, makeup, and jewelry, with only adrenaline rushing through my body. As the next hour and a half went by, I told myself that I was more than ready for Pageant Day, as I finally closed my eyes and drifted off to sleep.
My alarm rang as loud as a buzzer—March 6th was finally here! I rushed to go get my makeup and hair done at 6AM as I walked out in public in my comfortable pajamas, thinking that this was probably going to be the most comfortable outfit I would be wearing the rest of the day. As I drove to Campbell Heritage Theater after my appointment, adrenaline and excitement were rushing through my veins. I was so excited knowing that my family and loved ones were going to be out in the audience cheering me on up on stage—that was all the motivation I needed that day to have the strength to keep moving on. I arrived at the theater to see all the other beautiful contestants holding their luggages and Ao Dai’s. We all gathered together to take pictures and to share our excitement for the big day. Run-throughs felt hectic and stressful—that was the fastest I’ve had to change in dresses before in my life—I was so afraid of ripping the fabric or breaking a zipper. The two hours of rehearsal went by as fast as the snap of a finger—“Get ready girls! You’re about to go on stage soon!” My legs were shaking backstage in my white Ao Dai and the only thing that was rushing through my mind was if I was going to mess up my formation on stage.
Next thing I knew, the curtains opened up and everything that we’ve been practicing for in the past 2 months finally let up to this awaited moment. Pageant day went by so quickly, and I couldn’t believe that it was finally happening. All of the hard work and stressful nights that I put into being a part of MVNCI was going to pay off. As all of the contestants walked out on stage to be called up for top 8, I was already satisfied and happy knowing that I made it this far in the pageant and that my family was already proud of me. When I heard my name be called for top 8, my mind was screaming in excitement but my heart was beating loudly in nervousness. My legs were secretly shaking like crazy underneath my Ao Dai as I tried to hold my composure on stage. When each of us finished answering our question for Top 8, I walked away knowing that I did my best and that I answered to the best of my ability. Seeing my family and friends cheering from the audience with their bright smiles was enough for me to know that they were proud of me for how far I’ve come.
By the time of the crowning ceremony, I was happy and content with my own personal successes that I’ve made throughout my MVNCI pageant journey—being able to showcase my talent on stage, making it to top 8, and dancing my first fan dance in my life. “And the title of Miss Social goes to… Jullianne Truc Mi Pham, Contestant #8!” My family and friends went wild in the crowd as I walked up to the front in disbelief as I was being crowned. I made it into the Royal Court! I was so overjoyed knowing that I finally made it into the Royal Court, because I was more than happy knowing that I now have bigger opportunities to carry out my philanthropy project in the bay area community.
Being a part of the MVNCI 2016 Royal Court is an honor in itself, because MVNCI puts a lot of emphasis on their community service for the Vietnamese-American community. During my 2-year reign being in the Royal Court, I would like to work closely with the younger generation – specifically, first and second-generation youth of the Asian-American community to bridge the educational gap between other privileged children in the community. Book drives, tutoring services, and working alongside underprivileged high schools and middle schools are a few of the things that I would like to achieve during my reign. I would also like to close the generation gap between the youth and the older generation of the Vietnamese culture, because being a first-generation youth myself, I realized how difficult it could be to communicate with our elders in today’s society. I want to host workshops or hold outreach workshops with the lessons and experiences I’ve learned to give back to the youth in our community.