At the height of the Stop Asian Hate movement last spring, Nguyen was unexpectedly inter- viewed on CNN, taking the moment to read aloud a racist letter that several of his colleagues in the beauty salon industry had received. “My mom and dad came here to give me and my sister a better life,” he said on camera. “And right now, it doesn’t feel that way.”

“I didn’t consider myself as an advocate pre-COVID-19, but I did consider myself a bridge- builder and someone who cares deeply for his communities.” Some of the communities Nguyen represents are tied to the professional roles he holds. He co-owns Advance Beauty College in Garden Grove and Laguna Hills, which he took over from his founder parents in 1999. He also serves as a board member for the Vietnamese American Chamber of Commerce of Orange County, Orange County United Way, Cal State Fullerton Philanthropic Board, and the Orange County Transit Authority.

Nguyen’s journey in advocacy began close to home. While attending UC Irvine as an undergrad in the early 1990s, he loved showing off his Vietnamese culture to his college friends. “I often brought many of my UC Irvine friends to make treks with me to the Asian Garden Mall to enjoy the sugar cane drinks, foods, and snacks. I felt really proud to share a lot of my culture in foods and traditions with my friends that were not Vietnamese or had not been exposed to Vietnamese culture previously.”