My parents were in an arranged marriage, and they had all of us in Vietnam. I was the 10th child, born the year before the Vietnam war ended in 1975. We escaped Vietnam in 1978. We were one of those families on a fishing boat. They knew that there wasn’t any future in the communist country and they risked it all. It was a very courageous move on my parents’ part and I’m forever thankful for them.
I grew up in Austin, Texas. I didn’t have an idol or someone I looked up to, except maybe Bruce Lee, but that was the only choice we had. I wanted to look more like Leonardo DiCaprio and Johnny Depp, or someone with a Western background. I figured my look was more exotic and they looked more “normal.” I felt like I was an “other.”
My parents definitely wanted me to be a doctor or lawyer, but I wanted to do fashion, and they said fine. Maybe it was because I was the 10th kid. I went to fashion school, graduated, and then worked for a sportswear company. I was doing pattern making for a year. It was the ’90s, and there were all of these supermodels like Naomi Campbell and Kate Moss and Linda Evangelista, and I loved their hair — so I decided to go into hair. Everything kind of fell into place. I went to a really good salon, Toni & Guy, and here I am now. Almost 20 years of doing hair and I’ve finally gotten to a stage where I’m very comfortable with who I am and what my brand is. I’m really happy with where I’m at. Now I realize that I am who I am and I’m happy with who I am. But there’s still a lot more growth I want to do.