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Vietnamese beauty queen says top-five finish at Miss Universe taught her ‘tolerance’

Thursday, December 20, 2018, 17:03 GMT+7
Vietnamese beauty queen says top-five finish at Miss Universe taught her ‘tolerance’
H’Hen Nie performs in the grand finale of the 2018 Miss Universe beauty pageant in Thailand on December 17, 2018.

H’Hen Nie, a Top 5 finalist at the 2018 Miss Universe – the highest ever finish for a Vietnamese contestant – reflects upon her journey to becoming one of the world’s most recognized females and what it has taught her about tolerance and co-existence.

In an exclusive interview with Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper after the contest wrapped up on Monday, the reigning Miss Universe Vietnam 2017 said she is still in a state of shock after making history as the first Vietnamese to reach the top five at one of the ‘Big Four’ international beauty pageants.

“My emotions skyrocketed from happiness at making the top 20 to pure astonishment when I was named a member of the top 10. Reaching the top 5 was absolutely unbelievable!” H’Hen Nie said.

“I was truly in a state of shock. I thought ‘did they really just call my name?’” the 26-year-old beauty queen remarked.

Nie and 93 other contestants began the Miss Universe 2018 finale in Thailand at 7:00 am on Monday, where she finished in the top 5 alongside Miss Puerto Rico, Miss Venezuela, Miss South Africa, and Miss Philippines, who went on to take the competition’s crown.

H’Hen Nie performs in the grand finale of the 2018 Miss Universe beauty pageant in Thailand on December 17, 2018.
H’Hen Nie reacts after being named in the top five of the 2018 Miss Universe beauty pageant in Thailand on December 17, 2018.

“At the moment [they called my name] I felt as if my heart was going to fall out of my chest,” she said.

H’Hen Nie is of E De descent, one of Vietnam’s 54 ethnic groups, and the third oldest of her six siblings.

Growing up, H’Hen worked on a coffee farm and cleaned houses to earn money for herself and her family.

She broke free from E De norms after refusing to follow the tradition of marrying and starting a family at a young age, instead choosing to pursue an education at her own expense and learning to become fluent in both her native E De language and the Vietnamese language, which she began learning in grade eight.

H’Hen Nie performs in the grand finale of the 2018 Miss Universe beauty pageant in Thailand on December 17, 2018.
H’Hen Nie performs in the grand finale of the 2018 Miss Universe beauty pageant in Thailand on December 17, 2018.

With English being the Vietnamese beauty queen’s third language, H’Hen became a target for mockery from other contestants at the 2018 Miss Universe, including Miss USA Sarah Rose Summers, who made disparaging remarks about her English command in a livestreamed video.

Though the two seem to have been on good terms since the incident, H’Hen said participating in the contest has taught her a valuable lesson about tolerance in multicultural environments.

“I think [this lesson] will accompany me for the rest of my life,” H’Hen said.

“Seeing how much talent and knowledge all my international friends displayed at the contest has motivated me to never want to stop working or learning about the world.

“It also taught me optimism.”

H’Hen Nie performs in the grand finale of the 2018 Miss Universe beauty pageant in Thailand on December 17, 2018.
H’Hen Nie performs in the grand finale of the 2018 Miss Universe beauty pageant in Thailand on December 17, 2018.

The Vietnamese contestant’s limited English also caused her some trouble in the interview round for top-five contestants, where she was asked to give her opinion on the global #MeToo movement against sexual harassment and sexual assault.

Her interpreter failed to fully convey her well-versed Vietnamese answer to English, which may have played a part in H’Hen falling short of the top three.

“I think it’s totally understandable because live interpreting is a challenging task, let alone under tremendous pressure during the grand finale,” H’Hen said.

“Maybe even the interpreter was surprised I made it that far.

“But I don’t think it matters anymore. I’m happy with the way things turned out!”

H’Hen Nie performs in the grand finale of the 2018 Miss Universe beauty pageant in Thailand on December 17, 2018.
H’Hen Nie stands next to other contestants in the top five of the 2018 Miss Universe beauty pageant in Thailand on December 17, 2018.

Talking about her plans after the contest, H’Hen said she is looking to invest her time in improving her foreign language proficiency and pursuing a degree that can be useful for the charity work she has planned for the future.

“If I could study abroad that would be out of this world,” H’Hen said.

“I have received so much [from the society]. It’s about time I give back.”

Commenting on the newly-crowned Miss Universe Catriona Gray from the Philippines, H’Hen said the 2018 title-holder deserves all the praise she gets.

“She captured everyone’s attention at first sight and her catwalk skills are enthralling,” the Vietnamese beauty queen said.

“She has a clear philosophy on life and a strong will, but is still friendly and sociable.”

H’Hen Nie performs in the grand finale of the 2018 Miss Universe beauty pageant in Thailand on December 17, 2018.
H’Hen Nie performs in the grand finale of the 2018 Miss Universe beauty pageant in Thailand on December 17, 2018.

Shaking off the fact that she did not win the crown, H’Hen said her biggest goal was to promote a new image of Vietnamese beauty: passion-driven, full of energy, and unafraid to take on challenges.

“The crown [of Miss Universe Vietnam 2017] has transformed my life, so now it’s my turn to help transform other people’s lives,” H’Hen said.

H’Hen Nie performs in the grand finale of the 2018 Miss Universe beauty pageant in Thailand on December 17, 2018.
H’Hen Nie performs in the grand finale of the 2018 Miss Universe beauty pageant in Thailand on December 17, 2018.
H’Hen Nie performs in the grand finale of the 2018 Miss Universe beauty pageant in Thailand on December 17, 2018.
H’Hen Nie performs in the grand finale of the 2018 Miss Universe beauty pageant in Thailand on December 17, 2018.
H’Hen Nie performs in the grand finale of the 2018 Miss Universe beauty pageant in Thailand on December 17, 2018.
H’Hen Nie performs in the grand finale of the 2018 Miss Universe beauty pageant in Thailand on December 17, 2018.
H’Hen Nie performs in the grand finale of the 2018 Miss Universe beauty pageant in Thailand on December 17, 2018.
H’Hen Nie performs in the grand finale of the 2018 Miss Universe beauty pageant in Thailand on December 17, 2018.
H’Hen Nie performs in the grand finale of the 2018 Miss Universe beauty pageant in Thailand on December 17, 2018.
H’Hen Nie performs in the grand finale of the 2018 Miss Universe beauty pageant in Thailand on December 17, 2018.
H’Hen Nie performs in the grand finale of the 2018 Miss Universe beauty pageant in Thailand on December 17, 2018.
H’Hen Nie performs in the grand finale of the 2018 Miss Universe beauty pageant in Thailand on December 17, 2018.
H’Hen Nie performs in the grand finale of the 2018 Miss Universe beauty pageant in Thailand on December 17, 2018.
H’Hen Nie performs in the grand finale of the 2018 Miss Universe beauty pageant in Thailand on December 17, 2018.
H’Hen Nie performs in the grand finale of the 2018 Miss Universe beauty pageant in Thailand on December 17, 2018.
H’Hen Nie performs in the grand finale of the 2018 Miss Universe beauty pageant in Thailand on December 17, 2018.

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Tuan Son / Tuoi Tre News

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