ລິ້ງ ສຳຫລັບເຂົ້າຫາ

Interview with Miss Minnesota USA 2012, Pt. One

  • Dara Baccam

Dear listeners, Today's Lao Diaspora program brings to you Pt One of VOA's interview with Nittaya Panmalaithong, Miss Minnesota USA 2012. Nittaya and her father talk to Dara about her family background and what made her decide to enter Ms. Minnesota competition

Sabaidee listeners, I am very proud to introduce to you Ms. Nittaya Panmalaithong, a young Lao-American woman, who was crowned Miss Minnesota last November 2011. Nittaya was the first Lao-American and first Asian woman to win the state title and in a state that has a large concentration of Lao and Hmong refugee communities in the US.

Nittaya had no intention to seek for name and fame, show her body and beauty. The only reason she entered the competition was to look for the scholarship so she could continue for higher education. The resulted not only chocked Nittaya, Asian communities, Lao-American community and around the world.

Nittaya grew up in the large working class family; her parents were not able to send their children beyond high school. However, Nittaya is the first and only daughter in the family who always has the ambition to go to college. Since childhood Nittaya has observed that her parents had been working very hard to support the family; and she has to grow up fast to relief her family parents.

Kesone act 1:

We arrived to the US on July 24, 1986, to give you Nittaya’s background information; we were refugees at Napho Refugee Camp, Thailand. We spent two years in the camp where Nittaya was born on July 8, 1985. After that we moved to Philippines Refugee Camp and spent another six months, and finally settled down in Minnesota on July 24, 1986, Nittaya was then one year and sixteen days old.

Later on we moved around and returned here again, we have nine children in the family, it’s a big family, there are two families living in Minnesota, my first son, Thao Sisavanh and his family and Nang Saykham family who we are now living with. I have three more children living in the state of Alaska, Thao Phisith already has a family and another two sons still singles, Thao Anongsong and Thao Marvin both of them are still living over there. Living at this particular house right now are Nang Saykham, Nang Nittaya, Nang Vanessa, Thao Kai and Nang Fred my last daughter who was born in North Carolina and she was born with down-syndrome. She is now over 11 years old, not able to communicate well and able to peak some.

When we lived in North Carolina, we both worked, my wife worked in the sock factory and I was working for cloth dying factory. The factories were later shut downed, and we made the decision moving to Alaska to live with our sons. My wife started working for Wall Mart market and I worked for a car rental company, washing car. In the year 2010, my wife began to experience heart problem, she worked throughout the night and developed unstable heart beats, sometimes her heart beats was so hard that she almost didn’t make it, and had to go to the emergency room. The condition was very severe and we had to make the decision to move back and live with our older daughter in Minnesota. Nittaya has been living here with her older sister, she did move to Alaska with us; our two older children have been living here in Minnesota since we arrived to the US.

There are 10 people living in this house at the present time including parents, son in law, daughters, and two grandchildren, age two years old and one year old. Only two people are working to support the family, our son in law and Nittaya, my wife still having heart problem and has gone to the emergency room twice already. And I have to take care of the down-syndrome daughter.

Nittaya:

My name is Nittaya Malaythong, I am Miss Minnesota USA 2012. I attended elementary in Minnesota and moved with my parents to North Carolina where I attended middle school and graduated from High School in 2003. When my parents moved to Alaska, I moved back to live with my older sister. This is where I began modeling and attend Nor Mendel Community College. I did not have enough money to pay for school tuitions and I heard about pageant scholarship. During this period I worked for Wells Fargo Bank, after that I began working for Willard Firm, reinsurance package firm as receptionist. As far as modeling in Minnesota they were looking for blond hair and blue eyes, and they also looking for Chinese and Japanese women.

I never thought of becoming Miss Minnesota, I have heard about Ms. Minnesota scholarship, which inspired conduct research on the website two months before the competition and I decided to go for it. The participants must meet the age of 18-26, I was 26 then and I have to do it. Please excuse me for not speaking good Lao, I came when I was one year old and just started speaking Lao in the past three years.

The only reason that led me to enter Miss Minnesota pageant competitions was because of the scholarship, $40.000, but I have to register at the University first, on top of that I must have good GPA. Since I just started enrolling in the college, I am not quite sure about my GPA yet, it must be around 3.0. As far as the gifts for Miss Minnesota, they provided dresses for me to appear here and there and a little bit of money. Therefore, I need sponsors, there’s a Lao family in Las Vegas who will sponsor my family to travel to Las Vegas to watch the competition. I have to look for more sponsors to pay for the evening gown, hair stylist, make up and others; and all of these are expensive.

In preparation for the competition I have to take care of myself, eat well, exercise, attend political events, I have to keep up with the news and general information. At the beginning only a few friends and family members sponsored me, local sponsor was Massage and Bee who provided $100. At the present time I continue to look for big businesses to sponsors. I don’t know where the competition will be, either Las Vegas or Miami Beach.

During my first competition they gave me dresses from Victory Secret and a dress from designer Mac Duggal; he lives in Chicago, Illinois. Most of the money from the sponsors is toward the gown for final competition. The competition that I had in Minnesota took two days and the national competition will take two weeks, which will include camera set interview and photo shooting.

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