Hanuel Stories: Tu-Anh Ha
We met on the rooftop of Rose’s Luxury on the last days of summer. It was so perfectly “Tu-Anh”. Bright, warm, eclectic, eccentric.
“There’s this lightness to you that I can’t quite explain in words, ” I said as we fast forwarded through our year, talking about our past & future adventures. It’s a graceful kind of lightness; one that allows her to smile & say “I’m so happy for you” and mean it. One that lets her lovingly appreciate life and the people around her. And with this lightness, she journeys the world from New York to Shanghai to Nicaragua, led by her passions & wanderlust spirit and with her heart currently set on San Francisco & Europe.
From founding Fashion Fix, a successful non-profit that combined fashion & charity to spark change in her community, and spending a summer working for Uber in San Francisco, she’s has her hand in a little bit of everything. Recently coming back from Social Entrepreneur Corps in Nicaragua, Tu-Anh is fueled by determination & compassion. She rallies her forces without a moment’s hesitation for a good cause. A gentle yet fierce giver — this is Tu-Anh.
What has been one of your greatest adventures so far? Why is it so special to you?
There have been some thrilling, scary, and even magical moments. But my favorite has to be in San Ramon, Nicaragua this past summer. It’s a simple memory really. It was my first night in the new town during my summer internship of social consulting and I had just met my host mom, Madeline. In our very limited English and Spanish we tried our earnest to communicate but beyond the words we seem to connect immediately, this forty something independent woman from a remote town in Central America and a naive American.
Madeline and I fell into an easy kinship and she took me for a walk that evening, arm in arm. We walked to a children’s park and sat under the stars. San Ramon is high up in the mountains. Without light pollution, you see stars you never thought existed. Using my Spanish dictionary on my iPhone, the topic somehow turned to our grandparents. I teared up remembering my grandfather’s love and Madeline cried too. It was a very personal moment that I never expected and it will always stay with me when I think of Nicaragua. After the spirit leaves and the people have faded away, their love still manages to remain.
You are so passionate about supporting & empowering young women. Why is this important to you & why is it so needed?
Woman have been raised to believe they are not whole/complete as they are. We have been brought up to believe that make-up, the right weight, height, dress, haircut, shoe and having a husband will get us “there.” We are told to be modest because that equals respect for ourselves and gains us respect from the world. But what if a woman is naturally curvy? What does a neckline or hemline have to do with loving yourself? Somehow these arbitrary rules have been placed upon us and it gets even worse in less developed countries. I won’t go into statistics because Sheryl Sandberg, Nicolas Wudunn, and MissRepresentation have done a great job showing the disparity that women face and how the empowerment of women is a win-win for all.
But I will say that from experience most of the time it is other woman who are the arbitrator of these rules that keep us distracted, financially and emotionally. We need not to compete with each other. I wish a different message was told worldwide to women. I wish that people would say to them: You are enough. Beauty fades but your inner glow that will never leave you and it has always been with you. No one can take that away.
Where can one start being a part of empowering & helping communities & young women?
There are so many but first I think awareness is a major factor. MissRepresentation is a great organization that cuts to the core of the message. I also think it is important to start with yourself and to tell the young women in your lives that they are smart (along with beautiful) and lead by example. Become a mentor to the woman who works under you. Genuinely celebrate another woman’s achievements and then work even harder so you can celebrate yourself. Healthy competition is good, but insecurity breeds jealousy.
What keeps you moving forward & living in such a joyful and loving way?
Curiosity and the kindness of people like you. Simply put, a gentle “I know you can” squeeze on the arm makes me feel like I can achieve anything and that I already have. My own personal goal to never be the same person as I was last year or a month ago keeps me humble, introspective, and appreciative of the lessons (and sometimes face plants) along the way. But most of all my girlfriends who I can be 100% me around and still feel unconditionally loved. That is priceless.
Dear Tu-Anh, thank you for sharing your light. Not only are your words beautiful, but they run deep into the support & kindness you’ve given us. Hugs.
The warmest thanks to Rose’s Luxury & Aaron Silverman for opening up your amazing space for us!
Follow the lovely Tu-Anh and her adventures at @joliesa_marie.