Bao Nhia Moua, Student Life intern specializing in Leadership and Involvement, reflects on how Pagnia Xiong is an empowering figure for her and the Hmong American community.
Pagnia Xiong is a Hmong American woman who speaks from her heart and shares it through music. She an inspirational leader for many individuals within the Hmong community. I look up to her, because of her determination and success in achieving her goals. She is confident when she speaks and even stronger when she sings.
At the end of March, the Hmong American Student Association (HASA) prepared our first ever “Rise to Stardom” event. We brought in two popular Hmong artists to campus. The Kong & Shu Project—brothers Kong and Shu Lor—did a magnificent job performing, but it was Pagnia who struck me with her powerful voice. There is something about the way that she embraces each word within her lyrics and layers a story behind each song that she writes. When she was describing the story behind her song “Txoj Phuam Txoom Suab” (a piece, worn during Hmong celebrations, that is a purple cloth wrapped onto a woman’s head), she explained that she was inspired by a video of a mother dressing her daughter in Hmong traditional clothing for her wedding. In the video, there were sisters, aunts, and grandmothers all crowding around and watching quietly. The mother and daughter were in tears, but there was silence. Not a single word was spoken in the clip. Pagnia captured the words that were not said, because it was important to her to create music that moves people through expressing how loved ones feel toward each other. Her lyrics in this song are emotional, honest, and meaningful. The way she uses her lyrics to connect with her audience is amazing, but her lyrics were not the only thing that kept me so interested. The way that Pagnia holds her posture when she speaks shows confidence and maturity. She illustrates her charisma through her creativity, and no matter how successful she becomes, she shows that there is always room to grow.
In my opinion, Pagnia is a great role model for many Hmong American women. In the past when the Hmong people were still living in Laos, adhering to cultural traditions kept women from receiving educational and professional career opportunities. Often times, women were cast into the shadows of the men in their lives, and sometimes their only duty was to serve and respect their men and in-laws. But, now that many of these women are living in America, they have the chance to seek an education and profession. Women are given a voice and the strength to share their own opinions. For Pagnia, she is an inspirational model. Her successful singing career has encouraged me and many young Hmong women to strive for our goals, dreams, and passions.
Pagnia has proven to be a very empowering Hmong American woman for herself and her community. When I look at her, I see potential, strength, and success in myself.
Bao Nhia is a member of the Hmong American Student Association and participates as part of their dance crew, RePlay. She also serves on the MSC Programming Board’s Heritage and Awareness Month Committee.