By Annie Guo | Asian Avenue magazine
Being Miss Hmong Colorado means much more than holding a title, it represents an opportunity to spread education about the Hmong culture. That is what Sanakee Xiong, the 2013-2014 Miss Hmong Colorado believes. “To me, it is a way to help those who really need it. Being Miss Hmong Colorado, is another way of making sure our culture continues to thrive and never gets left behind.”
Xiong, a senior at Horizon High School, was crowned on December 1 at the annual Colorado Hmong New Year Celebration at the Adams County Fairground in Brighton, Colo. The youngest participant in this year’s Miss Hmong Colorado Pageant, she competed against five other Hmong women as each shared a talent, answered questions on-stage in both the Hmong and English language, and dressed in formal attire and traditional Hmong attire.
The women were judged on their ability to represent the Hmong community and organize activities that would spread education about Hmong culture.
For her talent, Xiong played the hulusi also known as the gourd flute. She first heard the instrument at the age of 12 when her aunt played it for her uncle when they were getting married. “I fell in love with it instantly,” she said. “I’ve been playing the hulusi at the Hmong New Year and other events since I was 12.” Her talent, poise on stage, and leadership stood out to the judges as she scored the highest all around. This was a great accomplishment for Xiong, since she grew up being very shy.
“In elementary school I was the shyest and quietest child you would ever meet. I never answered questions in class and when it came to recess I played hopscotch with one or two friends.” But this changed in middle school, when Xiong began participating in leadership camps and student council which boosted her confidence.
She said, “I never thought I could speak in front of large crowds comfortably but now there’s no where else I’d rather be.” In high school, she joined clubs such as Choir, Community Service Club, LINK Crew, Leadership, and Colorado Asian Pacific Youth Association.
“I feel like with all of this, I’ve developed into a strong leader, though of course I will always need improvement. I hope to gather everything I’ve learned from my experiences in order to help as many people as I can as Miss Hmong Colorado.”
Xiong comes from a large family with so many cousins that some she has yet to meet. Both of her parents are from small villages in Laos and came to America when they were very young.
“After having me, my parents had my sister and two brothers so I learned to take responsibility at an early age,” she said. “Learning this skill helped me a lot in school when I took on many after school clubs, academics,
and even created Horizon High School’s Green and Clean Environmental Club. I love to help out in my community, and I tend to go to extremes to meet my goals.”
She feels her family is an intangible value that is so close to her heart.
While the Hmong people have a small community in Colorado, Xiong believes the Hmong people provide each other so much support.
“What I really love about my culture is that even when times are rough, we all pull together to make sure no one gets left behind. It’s a great feeling to see this in my very own culture.”
To Xiong, the best part of participating in the Hmong Colorado Pageant was the sisterhood formed between all of the candidates. “Lucy Lee, Bethany Xiong, Pahoua Thao, Ashley Vue, and Amanda Cha were so wonderful to be with.”
Being the youngest, the other contestants were like big sisters Xiong has never had. “From our late night dance practices to getting our nails done, these ladies have taught me what true friendship is. Even after this competition, we still talk and hang out on a regular basis. They honestly are some of the best friends I could have ever asked for.”
As Xiong prepares to organize programs for next year, she looks forward to meeting new people and listening to recommendations from the community.
“I’m very friendly and open to conversation, so I’d love to make new friends and hear suggestions! There is a lot of work ahead of me so I hope others will join me on my journey.”