H’Hen Niê is a beauty queen, model and philanthropist from Vietnam. She was a Miss Universe 2018 Top 5 finalist.
H’Hen Nie was born on May 15, 1992 in the Sứt M’đưng village in Cư Suê, Cư M’gar, Đắk Lắk, Tây Nguyên, Vietnam to a family that belongs to the Austronesian ethnic group called Ê Đê. She is the third out of six children and she speaks the Ê Đê and the Vietnamese languages as well as English.
As a young girl, Nie helped her family in their coffee farm in Sứt M’đưng. Traditionally, ladies in the Ê Đê community get married young.
When Nie was 14 years old, she was asked by her parents to look for a husband. She refused to follow the tradition because she had big dreams, which led her to the most populous city of Vietnam.
After high school, Nie studied at the Nha Trang National Ethnic Community College in Nha Trang, Khánh Hòa, Vietnam. She only spent one year there as she transferred to the College of Foreign Economic Relations in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam to study Business Finance.
Nie worked as a nanny, a maid, a tutor, a leaflet deliverer, a waitress and a Christmas tree decorator to pay for college. She started modelling while doing her internship at a bank.
In 2014, Vietnamese designer Đỗ Mạnh Cường discovered Nie. In 2015, the latter auditioned for “Vietnam’s Next Top Model” Season 6, which aired on VTV from August 2, 2015 to October 11, 2015.
Standing 5’7.5”, Nie was the shortest among the 14 finalists of the competition. She and Đào Thị Thu finished ninth after being eliminated in the sixth episode of the show, which aired on September 20, 2015.
In 2017, Nie competed in the third edition of Miss Universe Vietnam, which was accompanied by a reality TV show titled “I am Miss Universe Vietnam.” The Ê Đê woman battled it out against 44 other finalists.
Representing Đắk Lắk, Nie was crowned at the Crown Convention Center in Nha Trang on January 6, 2018 and brought home the Miss Beach special award. This made her the first woman from an ethnic minority to hold the title.
Runner up to Nie was “Vietnam’s Next Top Model” Cycle 2 winner Hoàng Thị Thùy. “Vietnam’s Next Top Model” Cycle 4 winner Mâu Thị Thanh Thuỷ was second runner-up.
Representing Vietnam, Nie finished in the Top 5 of Miss Universe 2018 at the IMPACT Arena, Exhibition and Convention Center in Muang Thong Thani, Bangkok, Thailand. It was the highest spot a representative from her country has ever reached in the beauty pageant so far.
During the preliminary competition of Miss Universe 2018, Nie wore a dress inspired by the Vietnamese sandwich bánh mì as her national costume. The design was the winner of a contest held by the Miss Universe Vietnam Organization.
With brown skin and short hair, Nie looked different from typical Vietnamese beauty queens and actresses who have light skin and long hair. This received both praises and criticisms.
Through a Facebook post, Vietnamese newspaper Lao Dong journalist Dao Tuan mocked Nie due to her skin color. After receiving an online backlash, the former took down the post and apologized.
Days prior to the Miss Universe 2018 coronation night, a clip from an Instagram video showed Miss Universe USA 2018 Sarah Rose Summers mocking Nie’s English ability. After receiving an online backlash, the American woman from Nebraska issued an apology in her Instagram account, which further received criticisms for being a non-apology.
Initially, Nie made a commitment to donate 70 percent of her $10,000 cash prize from her Miss Universe Vietnam 2017 victory. But following her mother’s advice, she eventually donated 100 percent of the money to provide scholarships to students in the schools she previously attended.
Nie is an advocate for education, women empowerment and HIV/AIDS awareness. When asked whether or not the #MeToo movement has gone too far during the Miss Universe 2018 semifinals question-and-answer portion, she said the movement is on the right track and that every human being deserves protection and rights.
The Vietnamese beauty queen is a global ambassador of Room to Read. Headquartered in San Francisco, California, United States, the nonprofit organization promotes literary and gender equality in education to help children in developing communities.
As a Room to Read ambassador, Nie is raising funds to build a new library in Lâm Đồng, Tây Nguyên. The funds will also provide scholarships to girls in Asia and Africa.