The Visage of a Mother’s Success


  • Alissa Tu University of California San Diego



Vietnamese Americans, Vietnamese women, beauty pageants, Vietnamese diaspora, cultural identity


This inquiry is a personal essay about Vietnamese American youth participating in a beauty pageant and how notions of Western and Eastern beauty collide between Vietnamese American youth and their mothers. What does the beauty pageant represent for those who have been exiled from their homeland? How do ideal versions of success influence the participant’s identity or sense of self? Who is the ideal Vietnamese American beauty queen? By hypothesizing and understanding entry points that affect a mother’s perspective, Vietnamese American youth, specifically daughters, must navigate different ideals to find a sense of belonging. While being excluded from parts of American society, Vietnamese American youth are faced with trauma, values and ethics, racism and sexism while also being the personification of a mother’s success. Daughters who participate in a beauty pageant enforce a sense of community and are a symbol of hope to assimilate in America for those who have been exiled, and a participant’s success is a product of this navigation and a mother’s vicarious desires. In other words, the ideal beauty pageant queen must not only be able to uphold cultural values embedded in the beauty pageant but also their values entangled through familial relationships as well. As such, the ideal beauty pageant queen can balance both the daughter’s (Western) and the mother’s (Eastern) definition of success.






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