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For the first time since its inception in 1984, Mrs. World — a pioneering pageant for married women — crowned a Vietnamese candidate earlier this year.
Born to immigrant parents and raised in Seattle, Jennifer Le won her first crown at the age of 17, just before pursuing a bachelor’s degree in business administration at the University of Washington.
Upon graduation, Le kicked off her career in the tech industry, working in management consulting and specializing in change management at Accenture.
Five years later, she joined Facebook as a recruiter in search of outstanding Ph.D. candidates entering the field of artificial intelligence and machine learning.
In 2018, Le took home the crown as Mrs. Vietnam World, which led her to the Mrs. World pageant in Las Vegas back in May — where she emerged on top of 35 candidates from all over the world.
“My journey so far has been rewarding in many ways,” Le tells NextShark. “To be the first Vietnamese woman to serve as Mrs. World since 1984 is an honor and something that’s still surreal to me.”
“I’ve always believed that representation matters,” Le adds. “We tell the youth that they can do anything they put their mind to, but they need to see it, to believe it.
“I hope that my story can contribute to the movement that encourages young people to pursue their passion and goals in life, whatever that may be, and to do so fearlessly and unapologetically.”
As Mrs. World, Le has traveled to 10 countries and 22 cities, working with people from all walks of life.
“What’s also been incredibly rewarding this year is working with people from around the world to effect change and make a positive impact. What many people don’t realize is that as a titleholder, yes, there’s the glitz and glam, but there’s also a lot of work that we do in our communities,” she says.
“As Mrs. World, I’ve been fortunate to travel to 10 countries and 22 cities, volunteer with many charitable organizations, and share my story to encourage and instill hope in others.”
Le’s platform seeks to help eliminate the gender gap in tech. Aside from championing representation, more women in the industry would bring a diversity of perspectives, she says, which in turn would drive innovation.
“My platform as Mrs. World and my main focus this year has been helping to close the gender gap in tech,” Le says.
“This is something I’m passionate about, again, back to representation, I think it’s important, but also beyond that, having more women in the field means more diverse perspectives and that’s what’s going to drive innovation and ensure that the technologies being created are relevant for everyone.”
Le also started a nonprofit with a scholarship program that offers financial assistance to women in underserved areas. Interested parties and donors may send an email to [email protected] for more information.
“I’ve had the honor to work with amazing organizations with the same mission, including Girls Who Code, Black Girls Code, She Tech Italy, and Women Meet Tech Vietnam. Additionally, I’ve hosted free coding workshops, Code & Crowns, to get young girls in elementary and middle school interested in programming,” she shares.
With so much going on in her career and duty as Mrs. World, Le still manages to find time for her family and herself.
“I’ve learned that balance is not something you find, but something you create,” Le says.
“I have to be very intentional about creating balance — part of it is letting go of unrealistic expectations, giving myself grace, and the biggest thing for me is unlearning the idea that taking care of myself is selfish. When I take time to center myself, invest in myself, I find that I have more energy and enthusiasm to take care of the people around me. I’m a firm believer that when we fill our own cup, we are able to pour into others more abundantly.”
Le, who lives with her husband and son in Seattle, thanked her family for their support.
“My family members have helped me tremendously in many different ways,” she said. “Without their love and support, this year would not have been so memorable and impactful.”
Le will turn over her crown to the next Mrs. World on Dec. 6. After competing in pageants for more than 10 years, she is ready to retire, but she also sees herself coaching others.
“There’s much more to pageants than what we see on stage,” she says. “Personally, I think the magic happens before and after the pageant — during the preparation and the journey afterward.”
Le has a message for young women who want to take part in pageants:
“My advice to anyone interested in competing is to take the opportunity to discover who you are, what’s important to you and focus on becoming the best version of yourself,” Le says. “While your onstage presence matters too, it will always be what’s in your heart that shines brighter.
“Sisterhood is a big part of pageantry — women coming together to empower each other. Support your fellow sisters and remember that we are better together.”
Feature Images via Jennifer Le