While many of Vietnam’s millennial influencers live and work in Vietnam, there are many making their mark overseas too. One of them is weekend model Hai Tu. Breaking out onto the scene a few years ago, Tu has been able to build her image as one of Vietnam’s top millennial personalities, despite being thousands of miles away in France. We meet with her to learn about how she made her name as a model, what her goals are after studying in France, and what she’s thinking about Vietnam today.

Looking for another rising star in Vietnam’s millennial culture? Check out our latest profile on Instagram personality Jess Huynh.

Why did you choose to study abroad? Do you see yourself back in Vietnam anytime soon?

My university in France offers a strong biology program, which puts me on track to reac my goal of becoming a veterinarian. To become a vet, which is another five-year program, is selective. There are only 44 places a year for over 500 candidates. I’m thinking of coming back to Vietnam to start my career once I earn my degrees in France. It’s much easier to create change in Vietnam. It’s also home.

For now, I’m thinking about my career. For the past year in France, I felt alone and lost, not sure what to do. There was self-doubt. I went to France and left behind a fun lifestyle in Vietnam, lots of attention, and a career. France is slow and I missed Vietnam a lot. After a year away, thankfully I’ve found my rhythm and everything is beginning to settle into place. There will be a time and place for me to come home.

Hai Tu

What are you up to these days?

Studying in Toulouse. Part-time modeling here and there, mostly in Vietnam. Occasionally Vietnamese brands will send products to me in France so I can showcase their work from overseas. At times I’ll collaborate with other Viet Kieus based elsewhere in Europe, like my photographer friend Rose Nguyen who studies in Hamburg, Germany.

How did you get your start on Instagram as a millennial Vietnamese personality? Who’s following your work?

I started modeling when I was 15, by accident. I was invited by a photographer to participate in the X-Generation Kenh14 contest. I had the chance to work with well-known photographers in Vietnam who spotted me through the exposure.

Hai Tu

Modeling, it’s a hobby. Not a full-time career for me. People reach out to me when I return to Vietnam. I don’t work with a manager or agency. I prefer being independent. It’s more fun to keep it that way. And it’s what my followers want. Most are Vietnamese, many will inbox me to me in English. All my posts are in English. But when I livestream, I’ll speak in Vietnamese. It’s a sign that more Vietnamese are becoming comfortable with reading, writing, and speaking in English.

Hai Tu

What do you dream about for the future of Vietnam? What makes you proud to be Vietnamese?

The culture. And of course there’s the food. My favorite Vietnamese dish is the banh gio. My generation is developing more interest in the arts. We’re seeing so many new designs, brands and fashions pop up. And what’s amazing is that we, as Vietnamese, have our own ability to create these brands. Only in Vietnam. We don’t depend on global brands like many other parts of the world.

Hai Tu

I also hope that people will become more open-minded and accepting of other cultures. My generation especially passes down judgement because of looks and is too dependent on social media. Most Vietnamese media journalists will focus on a person’s appearance. Unfortunately, many younger Vietnamese don’t see beyond it. There’s so much social media and other influencers can do to change that mindset. I’m also passionate about issues like environmental awareness.

What are some of your favorite Vietnamese fashion brands? For a casual evening with friends or a fancy night out?

I only wear what comfortable, whatever is cute and nice.

Where can a guy take you on a date night in Ho Chi Minh City?

There aren’t too many date spots. But if I had to pick one: a sushi restaurant.

From your Instagram feed, it looks like you travel quite a bit. Where are you headed next?

I’d love to go to Greece. Santorini especially. I want to visit Venice. I’ve been to other places in Italy like Napoli, but it was even more crowded than Saigon. Also Paris, never been. Heard mixed things from both sides. I’ll have to see it for myself. Japan is on the bucket list. One of my regrets is not being able to travel more in Asia before moving to France for my studies. I also haven’t seen America yet. There’s so much to see in America!

Are there any other Instagram personalities we should speak with next?

@Foxtly. Among other things, she’s known for her collaborations with Vietnamese women’s fashion retailer Nosbyn. A talented artist, she used to work and live in Montreal, Canada. She’s now back in Vietnam.

You can find Hai Tu’s Instagram page at @lq.haitu