Amanda Nguyen Wins L’Officiel’s Women of Our Time Award

Activist, astronaut, and fashion icon Amanda Ngyuen continues to trailblaze for the Vietnamese American community

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5:00 PM HKT, Thu May 16, 2024 1 mins read

On May 7th, 19 winners of L’Officiel Vietnam’s 2024 Women of Our Time award gathered at the Hilton Saigon. Amongst these 19 Vietnamese-origin female leaders from the worlds of business, fashion, art, and more, Amanda Ngoc Nguyen cannot be overlooked. Arriving in a traditional Ao Dai hat embellished with beaded strings and an outfit from designer Tuong Danh, Amanda Nguyen showed up not only as a fashionista but also as the pride of Vietnam and women around the world.

Growing up as Vietnamese American whose refugee mother used celestial navigation to escape to the United States, Nguyen always dreamt of becoming an astronaut. However, her journey was interrupted by a sexual assault in her last semester at Harvard in 2013. Realizing the injustice that her rape kit could be destroyed after six months if she did not file an extension request, Nguyen would take years of her life advocating for the passage of the Survivor’s Bill of Rights Act (signed into law by President Obama in 2016) and the United Nations Universal Survivor Bill of Rights, passed in 2022. For her achievements, she was previously honored as one of TIME’s Women of the Year in 2022 and nominated for the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize.

What L’Officiel, a prestigious French fashion publication, has recognized Nguyen for is the often overlooked facets of her story: her love of fashion, her role as an astronaut, and her Vietnamese heritage.

Combining activism with fashion, Nguyen introduced the inaugural Survivor Fashion Show during New York Fashion Week in 2021. This groundbreaking event aimed to reframe the victim-blaming question often posed to sexual assault survivors: “What were you wearing?” Nguyen believes that “fashion is an expression of personal identity — something essential rather than frivolous.” Her choice to wear a traditional Vietnamese Ao Dai at the first Survivor Fashion Show added to the event's impact, her white dress adorned with dramatic, draped long sleeves showcasing the Survivor’s Bill of Rights Act.


Nguyen’s Ao Dai during the 2021 Survivor Fashion Show. Image via The New York Times.

This dress not only represented an American milestone but also Nguyen’s love for her community. Yet, it was not always this way. She admitted that as a minority in the US, her Vietnamese identity was once her “enemy.” But over time, her perspective on her Vietnamese identity has changed. She now sees her family’s immigration journey as a source of pride. In an interview with ABC news, Nguyen expressed that “[her family] swam so [she] can fly” and “[she is] the dreams of [her] ancestors.” When Nguyen heads for space at 2024’s Blue Origin launch, she hopes that “young Vietnamese women can see themselves among the stars… I may be the first, but I won’t be the last.”

Banner image via L'Officiel.

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