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The artist seeks longevity, and is ready to dedicate herself to being the best performer possible.

Photo by Jennalyn Fung

WORDS // Jennalynn Fung 

PHOTOS // Cerys

Thuy manifested her Sol Blume performance — and it won’t be the last thing she manifests. 

“A couple years ago, I was like ‘I wish I could perform at Sol Blume,’” she says as she looks into the distance, reenvisioning the exact moment she had hoped for it. Now, she’s in Sacramento, California, performing among the best in the industry. To a packed crowd that’s right against the barricades, no less. 

Backstage, in the artists’ area, a long line of journalists wait patiently to get a few quotes from her, myself included. I ask her what she thinks of her Sol Blume performance. “The vibes were immaculate, as the Gen Z-ers would say. It’s so funny because I used to blackout a lot when I got on stage. Now, I feel like I’m very aware.” She pauses to reflect, her tooth gem sparkling. “I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. But I think I’m just kind of trying to hone in on being the best performer that I can be.” 

A part of that elevation includes learning movement and choreography, and taking voice lessons to fine-tune herself. When asked what’s next, she strikes a small pose and says, “dancers. I want dancers to back me up a little bit, because they can do the heavy dance. And I can just, pop a little butt – it’d be cute.” 

Even after headlining tours across both U.S. coasts, a Europe run on the way, and opening for artists like Ella Mai, Thuy shares that not much has changed intrinsically. “I’m actually very shy, still. I think at my core, I am very shy. However, I have this confidence within me. During times where I feel a lot of pressure, or there’s a lot of stakes on the line, I feel I almost perform better. Like I can tap into that.” 

In other words, Thuy is a clutch player. “The whole thing is to just fake it till you make it because no one knows that you’re shy unless you say it.” But, it’s easy to fake it when you’ve been practicing long enough; she’s been doing basketball drills for years, so to speak, having made music since she was 22. 

Thuy delves deeper into lofty aspirations and the key to success being an acknowledgement that it is the long game. “You don’t see it right away. I’ve been making music for nine years, and I didn’t even start seeing anything come in until like two years ago.” 

Before Thuy made the leap to become a singer, she had focused on attending professional school, like many children of immigrants. But she says it is the same type of drive that she possessed while studying to become a physician assistant that has brought her success as a musician. “I do feel like Asian parents instill in us this fire to just be good at everything. I used to work in the medical field, and I feel like I took that tenacity into music,” she says, with a fire behind her eyes and her hands animated.

“I’m very passionate about what I’m doing. And I want to be the best for myself, because I know that I can tap into that potential. Knowing that I can get there allows me to work hard.”

Thuy has advice for young people today who face obstacles when trying to pursue their dream careers. “The most important thing is to remember why you love something. If it keeps coming back in your life, it’s worth pursuing.” For Thuy, music re-entered her life on numerous occasions. It wasn’t until 2015 that she initially received recognition within the industry, after releasing her single  “Hands On Me,” gaining notable support in the Bay Area after winning KMEL 106.1’s Home Turf Contest.

She continues on theme, empathizing with the difficulty of surviving and supporting yourself on an artist’s salary. “I also think it’s okay to do both [careers] at the same time,” she says. “Everyone always thinks you have to fully quit. I don’t necessarily think that’s true, because I had a plan A—I worked in the medical field. Try to provide for my family. It’s okay to have a backup plan, because doing something in the arts is really hard. [For the arts] you have to work five to nine, maybe even more. You have to hustle.” 

Yet, music remained the brightest light at the end of the tunnel. “I worked in every medical field possible because I just got bored. And then I realized that music was the one thing I didn’t get bored with. That’s why I decided to quit my day to day and go full music.” 

For the Bay Area native, the journey is just as important as the destination. Although it has been arduous, Thuy’s dedication to her craft irregardless of the outcome is what brought her so much success. She pursued a career as a singer in order to be herself and to unlock her own full potential. The belief she held in her own ability and skills is what ultimately contributed to where she is today, as though a self fulfilling prophecy. 

The singer and songwriter mentions that she sometimes feels like she’s psychic – and she can envision her own success. But it’s taken her just as much time to own up and be vulnerable to her own emotions and deeper feelings, which is why “Girls like me don’t cry / Girls like me pretend we don’t cry” is one of Thuy’s favorite lyrics that she has written. 

Growing up in a Vietnamese household, she always felt pressured to keep her emotions in, as though she couldn’t act out or express her inner emotions as a means to “save face.” But the song preaches precisely the opposite – that girls like her, who once concealed their feelings, actually cry too.

The most celebrated song of Thuy’s discography has become her parents’ favorite to sing around the house, even if it was ironically inspired by the ways in which they raised her. “They love it,” Thuy chirps about her parents, who she says are both really good singers. “My mom sings it like every single day. She’s trying to get a feature on it.” 

Her response prompted me to ask, “why don’t you make a bilingual version with her in it?” She mentions her  bilingual version with Min, but then suddenly, her eyes begin to glow. “That would actually be crazy! That just unlocked something. You just gave me an idea of what to do for my next album! I have an idea for an interlude. Thank you so much.” So maybe we can expect to hear a parent collaboration on Thuy’s upcoming projects. 

Although her parents had hopes of their daughter becoming a medical practitioner, they are fully supportive of what she does today. “I could be performing at a bathroom stall, and they’ll be proud of me. I think they know that I’m doing what I love, and I’m able to support myself. They’re just along for the ride with me.” 

When she started out, Thuy confessed she didn’t like her parents being around as it made her feel nervous. She was tapping into a different character meant for the stage, and one that they’d never seen before. However, as her career has gained traction, her parents have become more used to it. “I feel very comfortable doing sexy moves when my parents are there. Like, obviously, don’t stare at me!” She laughs, flusteredly. “But, at the same time, I’m at a stage in my life where I’m very confident in myself. I like having my parents around now,” she says, as her mom reclines in the lawn chair in front of the Sol Blume RVs. Both her parents were in attendance at Sol Blume, in addition to her cousin, who they called “Little Thuy.” 

Her family being in attendance at her concerts gives her the same feeling she gets when she hears “girls like me don’t cry” playing, in spite of it being her most streamed – Thuy can’t ever get tired of their support. With a lot of songs, she says, “You hear it so much that you’re like, ‘Oh my God, turn it off.’ But every time I hear people singing [“girls like me don’t cry”] back to me or I see their faces light up, I get reminded that I’m here for something more important than the music. I think that everything that I put out has meaning to me. So, I’m just hoping that when people listen to my music, it heals them somehow. I feel like that’s what “girls like me don’t cry” is doing for everybody. I’m just happy to be part of anyone’s little journey of healing.” It’s a universal catharsis.

It’s not just about healing, though. Thuy believes in protecting your spirit, especially when it comes to comparison and competitions. “Don’t let other people around you deter you from pursuing what you want to do,” she advises. “If you see them excelling or doing whatever, know that there’s room for everybody. That’s what I have to remind myself. ‘I’m here because I’m supposed to be here.’” 

In earning her seat at the table, she is one of the first well-known RnB and pop singers of Asian descent. Her heritage as the daughter of Vietnamese refugees makes her relatable to so many others of similar backgrounds, and offers hope to other members of the Asian diaspora that they can also be pop-stars. 

“When you get to a certain level, your existence has a huge impact on perception and all of that. There becomes a point where you have to understand that you being here in this space actually makes such a difference. It means so much to somebody that they never thought that they would see somebody who looked like them in film and media,” she tells Raydar Magazine. 

Alex Larvik, a student at University of Oregon, even wrote a piece on Medium about how Thuy speaking at an Asian student organization’s event on campus made him think about the importance of representation. “The audience was visibly reacting. …Bonding over the shared intense experience of growing up in an immigrant household. Her experiences are intertwined with that of our own,” he writes, moved by how this woman who embodies the cultural values and physical appearance of his own beloved community has managed to carve out her own place in the musical world. 

So, what’s next for Thuy? “There’s so much more,” she says with a huge smile on her face. “More music that we’re dropping soon, more visuals, more dancing. Just entertainment. I want to be the best full entertainer, so I’ve been doing everything possible – dance classes, vocal classes, because I never took them growing up.” She hints at her Asian household contributing to this lack of arts as a child. “I need to take it seriously. I just learn things that can help me have longevity. But, I’m trying to have fun as well.” 

Photo by Cerys

In an industry that demands persistence, resilience, and innovation, Thuy’s tenacity shines as a beacon of inspiration. As she gears up for the future, armed with dance classes and vocal training, she aspires to be a complete performer while still embracing the joy of the journey. With each step forward, Thuy epitomizes the fusion of dedication and passion, leaving behind a trail of empowerment and growth for other aspiring artists in the Vietnamese-American community to follow.

Thuy’s journey is not just about performance, though. Her story transcends boundaries, touching upon the immigrant experience, parental expectations, and the pursuit of passion. And what makes her perspective different is her keen awareness on the role of both hard work and luck; she advocates for a balanced approach, reminding us that it’s acceptable to have backup plans while chasing dreams. 

Thuy’s narrative reminds us that success is a multi-dimensional tapestry woven from dreams, challenges, support systems, and personal growth. From manifesting stages to embracing vulnerability through music, Thuy’s journey carries a universal message that resonates far beyond the notes of her songs—a message that beckons all to dream, persist, and flourish in their pursuit of artistry and self-discovery.



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