Leeanna Lor fulfilled her childhood dream of becoming Miss Hmong Minnesota when she was crowned in 2023 during the Hmong New Year celebration. The Miss Hmong Minnesota pageant, which has been held since 1984, showcases the Hmong culture and serves as an opportunity for younger generations to connect with their heritage. Unlike other pageants, the Hmong Minnesota pageant recognizes all three title holders, who work together for a year to organize community events and fundraisers. This collaborative approach aims to foster leadership and sisterhood among young Hmong women.
For immigrant communities, pageants have often been a means of preserving their cultural identity in the United States. The Hmong people, who settled in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and California after fleeing Laos during the Vietnam War, have found the Miss Hmong Minnesota pageant to be a platform for showcasing their language, clothing, and culture. It also serves as a validation of the beauty of ethnic women and their cultures. The pageant provides an opportunity for the participants to develop their skills in various areas, such as fundraising, relationship building, and event planning.
Lor, as Miss Hmong Minnesota, uses her platform to advocate for health issues within the Hmong community. Her personal experience with a near-fatal misdiagnosis during her teenage years inspired her to pursue a career as a burn unit nurse and work toward increasing health education among Hmong people. Lor’s role as a fluent Hmong speaker at St. Paul Regions Hospital allows her to bridge the gap between her community and the healthcare system. In addition to her nursing duties, Lor dedicates her time to community events and fundraisers organized by the pageant court, including initiatives like a winter clothing drive and a frostbite prevention campaign.
Overall, Leeanna Lor’s journey as Miss Hmong Minnesota represents the intersection of cultural pride, community engagement, and personal advocacy. Her story highlights the importance of representation, empowerment, and the desire to make a positive impact on the lives of others.