Set to take the stage on two Saturdays this April, R&B singer Thuy is the first female Vietnamese American artist to be performing at Coachella. The Bay Area singer appears on the same lineup as the likes of Tyler, The Creator and Ice Spice. For musical artists, being invited to perform at the world-renowned Coachella festival is a sign of success.

This is especially true for indie artists like Thuy, whose success is even more impressive due to her self-made roots. If an artist can go from writing and recording songs in their spare time to performing at a festival that grosses over $100 million in profits, small and upcoming indie singers are provided with the hope that they, too, can make it big.

In an increasingly diverse music industry, it is surprising that there is a first anything in 2023. It starts making sense why Thuy is the first female Vietnamese American Coachella artist after reading her 2021 interview with Flaunt.

In this interview, Thuy described her upbringing as a shy Vietnamese girl in the Bay. She said singing was an outlet for her from the beginning, starting with karaoke at big Vietnamese parties packed with family members.

Before Thuy pursued music professionally, she was a student at the University of California, Santa Barbara, according to an interview with Paper Magazine. After graduating with her Bachelor’s degree in biopsychology, she held various positions within the medical field. Thuy told Paper that visiting the recording studio with her boyfriend on a whim was the catalyst for her music career.

Thuy’s first EP, i hope u see this, debuted in 2021. The artist released her most recent album, girls like me don’t cry, in 2022. The lead single of the same name has reached nearly 60 million streams on Spotify since its release. The themes expressed in Thuy’s music range from self-love to heartbreak.

Thuy has performed at past music festivals, like 88Rising’s Head in the Clouds in Pasadena, CA, and Outside Lands in San Francisco, CA.

Head in the Clouds features Asian and Asian American artists of various genres, like Indonesian R&B singer NIKI, Korean rapper DPR LIVE and Filipino English indie singer Beabadoobee. Thuy’s addition to the lineup brought calming yet soulful vocals to the music festival. Head in the Clouds is unique because of its mission to highlight artists from across the Asian diaspora in America. In an MTV interview, past headliner Rich Brian described Asian pride and joy as seeing the Asian community expressing themselves through music.

During her Flaunt interview, Thuy said, “My biggest thing is to be a mentor for young Asian Americans that feel pushed into a box . . . I feel super passionate about it because I never had anybody that helped me.”

Asian American families often discourage their children from pursuing creative careers whether due to concerns of prestige or stability. This phenomenon often results in young people feeling unsupported in pursuing their creative aspirations. These feelings are emphasized for Vietnamese Americans, who have few role models in creative fields, like the music industry. A lack of representation only makes it more difficult for Vietnamese parents and children to believe that music is a viable and lucrative path. If our parents fled to America as refugees after the Vietnam War, how can we blame them for wishing for their children to have stability and concrete futures?

Artists like Thuy inspire young people to expand from the box of STEM fields and model minority careers. When a young Vietnamese person pursues a field like music or writing, they are likely opposing their family’s expectations. Taking chances like these is not encouraged in our community, but exploring the arts and adding our voices to creative spaces is necessary to share our stories. Plus, when music like Thuy’s goes viral, it introduces outsiders to Vietnamese artists and even has the power to shift how others view our community. Women like Thuy help expand the image of what being Vietnamese and successful looks like.

So many Vietnamese American women are encouraged to be non-confrontational whether at home, school, or the workplace. We are taught to be people pleasers in order to gain opportunities in a country that decides our value based on how much of a capitalist asset we are. By being a performer, Thuy directly defies these sentiments and opens the door for other Vietnamese American women who aspire to achieve success in the mainstream music industry. 

Visual Credit: Wendy Wei

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