Spaghetti-O’s and food stamps supported my family following my mother’s immigration from the Philippines. Of all places, she and my father settled in McKinney, Texas – closer to the Dallas Cowboys than actual cowboys, but still a world away. Growing up, I attended Title 1 schools in Prosper ISD. In my classrooms, I was the only person who looked like me in a small town of less than 4,000 people. As if being Asian-American in a small town wasn’t hard enough, both my parents worked two jobs and my family experienced housing insecurity. I never dreamed that someone like me could go to college and leave their hometown, much less that I would finish law school and become the very first Asian American woman to be Miss Texas.
Eventually, I found my voice through higher education and accidentally going viral on social media while sharing my favorite study snack of cantaloupe. At Southern Methodist University, I studied Human Rights and Law and discovered that Texas was home to so many different communities. The Lone Star state is one of the most diverse places in America, and one of only five states where People of Color are, surprisingly, the majority of the population. This new Texas I grew to know housed one of the world’s largest South Asian communities, a thriving Black music industry, generations of Latinx and Chicano cultures, and some of the best Vietnamese food this side of the Pacific. During law school, my social media following continued to grow through snacks and laughs, and connected me to an even larger, global community. Across TikTok, YouTube, and Instagram, I share educational guidance, cultural recipes, and authentic day in the life videos with nearly one million young, ambitious followers, most of them first generation students like myself.
I have spent the last three years not just studying how the law impacts and reflects the population, but I have demonstrated a professional ability to execute successful national campaigns with partners like Apple, Google, and Microsoft. I have grown a vibrant, inclusive community of ambitious young people who are hungry to see themselves represented in the world around them. I have continued to run a global 501c3 nonprofit providing education to young girls in the Philippines, walked in New York Fashion Week, starred in musicals, grown my digital brand into a small business, and even found time to plant a vegetable garden back home.