Changing Face of Hmong Youth

Feb. 7, 2014 / By

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By The kNOw Youth Media,  Ezra David Romero/ Valley Public Radio

Popular culture and traditional values often differ when it comes to perspective on healthy weight for girls. In this commentary, Edison High School Student Mai Chong Vang tells her story of self-acceptance while belonging to cultures that promote opposing ideal body types and how Hmong and American perspectives have challenged her to accept who she is.—

My name is Mai Chong Vang, but I go by Chonny.

I’m from East Central Fresno, my family is Hmong and we practice Shamanism. I’m only speaking from my own experiences and what my parents have taught me about our culture.

Living and growing up in my family we feel that each person’s health and happiness is a reflection of their spirit. Your looks, actions, attitudes, emotions, and perspectives can be interpreted as a symptom of the condition of your spirit. For me, my size concerned my family.

The issue began at birth. I weighed 6 lbs and 3 ounces and that was just too small. I was considered one of the two smallest children in my family. Since then my weight has fluctuated from year to year. One year I’d be skinny and the next a bit chunkier.

When I was in middle school my parents tried to convince me to eat more. I was always the last one to finish eating dinner and my mother would sit across the table waiting and watching to make sure I’d clean my plate.

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The kNOw Fresno

Through The kNOw Youth Media's program, we create opportunities for our youth participants, who in turn create long-term positive change in their communities. Our approach weaves youth development and youth media innovation to produce our biannual youth publication, multimedia projects, and community forums.