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THE NEW

HMOOB Founder Of I Am Hmong Beauty:

SHENG FANG

And Her Story

JUNE 2012

MEENA THAO the girl behind the voice

Get Your Papaya Recipe Inside

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TA B L E O F C O N T E N T S EDITOR’S NOTE

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BEHIND THE VOICE

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LIGHT FEETTO THEAFTER LIFE

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HER STORY

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HMONG FOOD

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Meet the team on the next page!

Meena Thao

Faith of a Shaman

Facebook sensation with Sheng Fang, Founder of I Am Hmong Beauty.

Make it yourself: delicious papaya salad!

Special contributers: SHENG FANG Beautifully photographed and edited Meena Thao for the front cover and the spread.

MOUACHOUAJ LENG YANG Donated a great amount of money to bring our fans and viewers better quality!

J A N N Y V U E & PA N H I A L E E Brought us a mouth watering recipe! 2 | THE NEW HMOOB | 2012 JUNE


EDITOR’S NOTE

Meet The Team

of The New Hmoob The New Hmoob proudly supports inspiring and

talented Hmong Individuals, Artists, Organizations, and the Hmong Entertainment.

Za Xiong CEO, President, & Graphic Designer “Art is everything to me!”

Sara Chang Graphic Designer,Editor “Staying in Graphic Design.”

Jar Xiong Cheif Editor “Studying in Pre Med.” Xue Ying Lo Photographer Quote: “There is only you and your camera. The limitations in your photography are in yourself, for what we see is what we are.- Ernst Haas”

Yeng Xiong Editor “I love volleyball!” 2012 JUNE | THE NEW HMOOB | 3


“I feel more connected when expressing myself through Hmong songs”

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BEHIND THE VOICE

MEENA THOJ

How and why is singing your passion? Music has always been a big part of my family and my life. It brought us closer and definitely made us stronger through the many ups and downs. I’ve always loved to sing ever since I can remember. I fell in love with singing because it brought out the strength that I never thought I’d have and gave me a huge boost of confidence. As funny as it sounds coming from a singer, I grew up extremely shy. With positive feedbacks toward my vocal, I became more confident. Without music, I feel naked. Where and how were you discovered? Back in 2001, my parents and uncles decided to create a band, known as “Ocean Wave”. The band was made to simply keep our families connected as well as to keep us (the kids) away from negative influences. The band went public due to our little gigs at Hmong Events, and in time the Hmong Community in Minnesota began to notice us. Every weekend we’d go and perform at events, fundraisers, and concerts. It was the occurrence Of Ocean Wave that helped me capture the public’s acknowledgement. Unexpectedly, in 2011 my debut album became my grand step in the sudden spotlight. Describe your type of music if you have any (Modern, Traditional, etc.) My family is an average Traditional Hmong family. My Band and I were more involved with traditional songs. Our parents encouraged us to explore who we are first by playing our music before we drove into other cultures. In time my family and I evolved and expanded. We started to learned other types of music, such as the Cha Cha, Lambada, Mega-dance, Techno, and Pop songs that you see everyone step dancing to at Hmong special events. Aside from that, I have personally been a huge fan of music from all sorts of culture as a kid. Growing up, I would listen to American, Thai, Korean, Japanese and many genres of music, where I would imitate their singing voices and sing-a-long with them. Singing is definitely more delightful when you start exploring. It’s so exciting to do all sorts of different styles. The more I learn, the more it prepares me for anything.

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Is singing a career something you will continue to pursue in? We grow up in a country that focuses on education because it is what we depend on to better our lives in the future. A stable career is something we look for in that aspect. Before pursuing my singing career, my top priority was to finish and receive my associates in Medical Assisting, which I have achieved. Aside from the fact that singing is generally competitive, I believe it’s definitely harder to pursue as a career in our Hmong community. There are many factors to this reason. One causing factor is that the Hmong population is low in the world. As a Hmong singer you won’t gather enough support to promise you a stable future, even if you’re a top Hmong singer. Because I am very passionate about singing, I decided to pursue it. On the other hand, I plan to resume my education in the Medical Field.

Can you tell a little about your production? The people behind Meena Thao Production are my parents. They raised me and basically nurtured me throughout my life. I never thought one day they’d also be amazing managers and producers. I do think it’s pretty cool to have such supportive parents. They have great perspective, not only on life, but in music as well. I am amazed by them every day, and I am astonished at the fact that they have no musical knowledge. I always hear them saying “peb hmoob sawv tom hav nyom los ua” meaning “we learn to do things ourselves from no given knowledge” and now I truly know why. Due to their love for music and mine, it pushed us to persue our love for music into reality. I’m hoping Meena Thao Production will shed some hopes to those who are getting into or fascinated in this field; we can all make it as well. What is your thought about Hmong Music and or singing in general? Learning Hmong music truly kept us speaking our language and basically taught us to never lose sight of our culture. I feel more connected when expressing myself through Hmong songs; it’s who I am so it’s easier to be comfortable. Through singing, I soon realize it doesn’t matter if it’s a sad song or a love song. As long as you feel the song with your true emotions then the result will touch the audience. You can create something wonderful from your vocal and impact a person 2012 JUNE | THE NEW HMOOB | 5


who you have no connection to at all. That is something that blows me away about singing. Music is remarkably beautiful and especially when you’re bringing it from your own culture. What is the toughest part of being a Hmong American Singer/ Artist? That’s a hard question because there are so many things that I can relate to for this topic. One particular thing that I think is the toughest for me is that I don’t have a professional composer to guide me. My parents and I only know what we know and they’ve absolutely done an outstanding job to lead me this far. I feel that other cultures are far ahead because they have more resources and a wider knowledge in this aspect. It would give me greater enhancements in my music if I had that type of help. Can you tell about your experience of being a Hmong Singer in America and its challenges and how you overcome them? Everyone faces or will face challenges throughout their lives, whether it’s getting into music or other things. For me, being a Hmong singer did not happen overnight, take a few days, or a few months. It took many years and an amount of obstacles to be here. I am not a born singer so I had to push myself harder. Some people would turn to vocal training for an hour or two. From a young age, I practiced and self-taught myself at least over 5 hours every day or every chance I got. I didn’t have the type of money for private lessons but I still would have loved to. It’s not always rainbows and butterflies. I realize that the more I was in the public’s eyes, the more positives and negtives I’d had to face with. At times people would mistreat and take advantage of you just for the reason that you can sing. I found true friends through true opponents. Many times I felt pressured and wanted to give up. I couldn’t give up; I had to show the world I could do something wonderful as well. Besides, I felt singing was something meaningful in life. Through my music journey I developed and learned an amount of lessons about life. I’m glad to be a part of this wonderful magazine. Everything my family and I went through paid off. I’ve finally caught up to my lifelong dreams and I strongly encourage everyone to find and reach theirs as well. Not to sound grim, but sincerely, if I was to never wake tomorrow I would say, “I am very happy where I am today because of music”.

PHOTOGRAPHS BY SHENG FANG

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“I found true friends through true opponents.”

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Light Feet To The After Life 8 | THE NEW HMOOB | 2012 JUNE


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ne day I went to go visit my boyfriend’s family and happened to chat with his aunt, a “Shaman King”. An old age woman, small, cute, and very plump, is a “Shaman King” really surprised me. Usually men with high power in their families are chosen to be Shaman Kings. However, my boyfriend’s aunt told me stories which I have been so eager to know about for many years now of the afterlife. Because she was also a chosen one, due to her light feet, she was able to cross the unknown world beyond the human world. With two men sitting beside her and with a spoon in a bowl in front of her, the aunt took on a trance and makes the journey to the other world. “If I was younger and my legs do not hurt this bad, I would go see my dead husband. But because I have bad pains in my legs, I can no longer go.” She says, “It is very tiring going there and coming back. When I come back I am very exhausted and my legs get very weak and tire. It is important to

stay healthy for this purpose.” At this moment, I had so much to ask, “What do you see there? What is it like?” I wanted to hear every detail of it. I wanted to know everything of the afterlife (if there was such a thing). “Mi Ntxhais aww…” she started off. “The Unknown World is so peaceful. When I was there, I would go back to Laos where I am originally from. I would see all the people who passed away sitting and walking around. I would pass them and we would look each other in the eye but cannot say anything. I once saw my husband’s exgirlfriend. I remember seeing her once before when she was still alive. When my husband took me home to be married, we saw her on the way to his house. She also saw us. The ex-girlfriend was so heartbroken; she ate some poison herbs and died. Now she’s paying the price in the afterlife, tied and chained to the herbs that she used to kill herself with. She is not allowed to go anywhere.” The woman then whispered to me, “No

matter how hard life is, never commit suicide. It is not your time yet that is why you need to live and live until it is your time to go.” Unfortunately, the day was coming to an end and as much as I wanted to stay and listen, I had to go home. Her story never left my mind. Her story made me wanted to learn more, meet, and hear more from people who experienced what she has experienced and share them with those who are curious, like me. The Shaman culture has been the Hmong’s main religion for hundreds and hundreds of years. Shamanism has mold the Hmong culture greatly and uniquely with superstitions that brings us great stories like the one that my boyfriend’s aunt shared. Whether Hmong are Christians, Buddhists, Atheists, or Shamans, we are familiar with these kinds of stories. Stories that bring us back to our childhood.

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I Am Hmong Beauty was founded early this year of 2012. “It provides a safe and supportive community where Hmong women can share memoirs of their struggles and successes. We are here to inspire, educate, promote dialogue, raise awareness about Hmong women’s issues, and advocate for change in the community.” 10 | THE NEW HMOOB | 2012 JUNE


Facebook Sensation With Sheng Fang, Founder & C.E.O of IAHB Here Is

HER STORY Wr itten by : Sheng Fang

My name is Sheng Fang. I am 20 years old and currently reside in Saint Paul, Minnesota. I am a Freelance Photographer, Certified Photo Specialist, and the CEO of a new uprising community group called, I Am Hmong Beauty (IAHB) with over 6500 supporters and continuously growing by the minute. I consider myself as just an average woman trying to reach my goals and dreams just like many other women. I want to prove to the world that I am not just a Hmong woman. I am Hmong beauty and with my story, I hope you can find and recognize the inner beauty within yourself as well. I was born and raised in Fresno, California on December 26th, 1991. I grew up with five brothers and two other sisters with me being the third oldest. To be honest I do not remember much from my childhood but in my opinion some memories are better left forgotten. Being the young and innocent child I was, I yearned for freedom and never wanted to grow up. I felt free as a child and enjoyed doing what I did best; being a child. But I never knew that I woul d suddenly have to grow up so fast due to a fateful turn of events. Throughout my life I’ve had many near-death experiences and they’ve always reminded me that it is not my time to leave

this world and so I should live my life to the fullest. When I was 14, my parents divorced and my mother left our family. This left an emotional scar for me and the divorce impacted me greatly because it changed my life. When my mother left, I lost all hope and connection with her and it seemed that even though my father was still here, his soul had left as well. Throughout my teenage years, I worked hard, went to school, and always did my best even though both of my parents were not around. But because of all of the pressure and emotional stress, I suffered depression and became very suicidal. I would cut myself and always have disputes with my father. One dispute with my father led me to be put in a mental hospital. My father thought I was crazy and so I stayed in a hospital for two weeks and was forced to attend counseling.

also told that they were not allowed to tell their stories. I wanted a change, and I was not going to sit here and wait for a miracle. I went out there and took a leap of faith to be the change. There are so many things that happened in my life that also helped me create IAHB but if I were to write my entire life story, it would be an endless amount of pages. I’ve made many sacrifices and tough decisions to get where I am today and in life. We must be able to have the strength to let go and move on or else we will be trapped in the darkness of our own shadows. True beauty comes from within and can mean so many different things. Beauty is not something physical that we can touch. It is something only hearts and minds can reach. So if you are struggling to find your own inner beauty, reach deep into your heart and when you find it, grab it and never let go. You are more powerful than you know. If you seek for a change, then be the change. In order to create this change, you must also have the courage and strength to change yourself. I hope to be able to read your story of strength and courage when the right time comes for you. Thank you for reading and if you fall, I hope you will find the strength to get back up.

I was at the very lowest point in my life and thought that everything was over. But after I was released from the hospital, I told myself that I would make a change. I stopped being depressed over everything and tried to stay positive. I remember my father always telling me that because I am a Hmong woman I hardly had any rights and his words led me to question my own people. I created IAHB in hopes of reading the stories from the many voices that were 2012 JUNE | THE NEW HMOOB | 11


VOLUME 2: “TSIS MUAJ HNUB HLOOV SIAB” AVAILABLE JUNE.30TH,2012

PROMOTING @ MN JULY 4 TOURNAMENT IN COMO PARK!

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The New Hmoob