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Pham Ngoc Ha My

The moment that brought me into the limelight was when I wore a beautiful yellow ao dai to present flowers to former US President Donald Trump during his visit to Vietnam for the APEC 2017 event. I never thought I would have the chance to be chosen for such an honorable position, but there I was, amidst a sea of world leaders, with all eyes on the US President.

When I received the news of my selection, I was surprised to learn that all the female participants were required to wear an ao dai, and that it had to be approved by the Protocol Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. With few ao dai options in my wardrobe, my mother and I embarked on a search for the perfect dress, one that was elegant, traditional, and reflected the beauty of Vietnam. It had to be a long-sleeved, high-collared dress with a long skirt and wide-leg pants, in a delicate, subdued color with intricate floral patterns. I still remember spending two to three hours trying on different dresses until I finally found the perfect one - a yellow ao dai with hand-embroidered lotus flowers, the national flower of Vietnam.

During the dress rehearsal, I received some negative comments, but I was determined to wear that dress, as I felt it had been chosen for me. On the day of the event, standing next to President Trump, I had chosen a traditional makeup and hairstyle to showcase the natural beauty of a Vietnamese girl. When I saw the pictures of myself with the former president, I felt proud and accomplished, knowing that I had conveyed a message of simplicity, elegance, and grace through my outfit.

This experience opened many doors for me, and I went on to participate in other pageants, including the Miss Vietnam 2018 contest, where I proudly wore my beloved ao dai. It was a symbol of my roots, my heritage, and my identity as a Vietnamese woman. And to this day, it still holds a special place in my heart, reminding me of the journey that led me to wear it with such honor and pride.

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