Vietnamese-American chef Christine Ha met with her fans in Ho Chi Minh City on Monday at an event where she shared her real-life experiences and how she overcame her tumultuous journey.
The event, held by the U.S. Consulate General in Ho Chi Minh City in collaboration with the Center for Disability and Development, aimed to direct positive energy from Ha's story to those who need it.
She was born in 1979 to Vietnamese parents in California.
In 2004, she was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease and gradually started losing her vision.
Ha is the first blind contestant of the American competitive cooking reality television series MasterChef and became the winner of its third season in 2012.
She published her cookbook Recipes from My Home Kitchen with Vietnamese food recipes one year later.
Ha is currently running three restaurants in the U.S..
At the event on Monday at the American Center under the U.S. Consulate General in Ho Chi Minh City in District 1, Ha not only encouraged people with her positive messages about life, but also touched the hearts of the listeners with her spirit of self-love and acceptance of hard circumstances, thereby turning it into motivation.
|Christine Ha is seen at an event at the American Center under the U.S. Consulate General in Ho Chi Minh City in District 1 on September 25, 2023. Photo: Dong Nguyen / Tuoi Tre News|
“When I started losing my vision, people always asked me if I was angry or how long I stayed sad,” Ha recalled her own experience when an audience member asked her about the self-victimization feeling of people with disabilities.
“I was definitely sad, it was not easy. I don't feel like I was ever angry or questioning why it was happening to me or that it was unfair.
“It's really about how you play the hand that you're dealt. So I think for me, I chose not to victimize myself, I just figured vision loss was something that just happened to happen to me.
“I could either give up on life, but I realized that the earth keeps rotating, the sun still rises, the sun still sets. So I could either give up or I could figure out, okay, how I can still change my life or the way I view life to make my life still feel purposeful in spite of the vision loss.
“And that's the decision I chose to make.”
|Christine Ha poses for a photo with her audience at an event at the American Center under the U.S. Consulate General in Ho Chi Minh City in District 1, September 25, 2023. Photo: Dong Nguyen / Tuoi Tre News|
The achievements Ha has made, she said, result from a journey of small steps and her appreciating each of them.
“Look back at your small achievements and what you've been able to accomplish day by day, hour by hour even, and you'll realize that you are achieving small goals slowly," Ha told her audience.
"It's okay because the small goals that you reach will lead to bigger things, and to more self-confidence.
“And then the more confidence you have, I think the less fear you have to take greater risks in life.
"Always the biggest rewards in life come from the greatest risks.”
When asked about self-limiting beliefs, Ha answered that limitations are not always bad.
“I think limitations are something we try to always view as negative,” she said.
“But I think limitations are sometimes a way for the world to tell us it's not time or we're not ready or this is not the right path for you to take and I think that's okay.
“You should listen to the limitations as well.
“I was always taught to deliver more and more and be an overachiever, and a perfectionist, and that leads to a lot of pressure on myself.
“But I think sometimes you have to limit yourself to preserve your mental health and your emotional health, and I think it's okay to say no to things.
“I think in some ways it's okay to limit yourself if you don't feel emotionally or mentally or physically ready for a challenge, that's perfectly okay.”
According to the restaurateur, it is really about 'a balance' and people should listen to their intuition to say what they really want to do, whether they are ready for something or not.
|An audience member uses sign language to ask Christine Ha via a translator in the Q&A session of an event at the American Center under the U.S. Consulate General in Ho Chi Minh City in District 1, September 25, 2023. Photo: Dong Nguyen / Tuoi Tre News|
Ha also told her audience the story behind one of her most significant core life values.
“It is turning better today than you were yesterday,” she shared.
“How I came up with that core value was actually during the time I was competing on MasterChef.
“Every day I would go into the kitchen or the studio to film, and I wouldn't know what challenge we had that day for cooking.
“And of course being visually impaired, I never knew how anyone else was also doing at their station or what ingredients my co-contestants decided to use.
“So I realized after a while that I felt like I really wasn't competing with anyone else.
“I was really just competing against myself or the version of myself the day before. So I felt like the only way I could succeed was I went into that kitchen every day and became a better cook or a better person than the day I was before.
“That core value has stuck with me throughout the last 10 plus years.”