Miss writer-to-be

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Former Miss Vietnam, Nguyen Thu Thuy, has started a writing career with a collection of stories titled Chuyen cai to kien (The story of the ant hive) or "My Obsessions."

Nguyen Thu Thuy was crowned Miss Vietnam 1994 at the age of 19, when she was a first year student at the Hanoi Institute for International Relations. She seemed to have it all and in the 1994 Miss Vietnam Contest, she also won the award for "Best answer" in the Q&A final round.

Born into an intelligentsia family with parents who were officials at the Vietnam Institute of Linguistics, everybody thought Thuy had a comfortable, trouble-free upbringing with early success.

But her life has been anything but easy.

After being crowned Miss Vietnam, Thuy quit her studies in Vietnam to study business in the US.

Unlike most beauty queens in Vietnam, who usually enter the entertainment or fashion industry, Thuy stayed away from showbiz and started her own business. She married at age 26 and had two children. As well as being a full-time mother, she managed her own beauty salons and studio in Hanoi.

The 1.72m-tall-beauty became a single mother when she divorced her husband. Strangely enough, she had her second baby with her ex-husband after the divorce.

Then, earlier this year, at the age of 35, Thuy was involved in a scandal that saw a photograph of her smoking a cigarette in a bar leaked on the Internet. Thuy's photo caused a ruckus among the general public and sullied her reputation.

In the midst of public censure, Thuy explained that the photo was taken four years ago and it was just one moment at a party with some friends. In an interview with Thanh Nien, Thuy said that going to bars and smoking cigarettes are just parts, not all, of her life.

"Having some wine and a cigarette was not that big of a deal. Stars are human beings after all and their personal lives need to be respected. The principle myself and my kids follow is that you should do whatever you want, within reason. This doesn't include breaking the law, doing anything immoral, harming others or losing self-control. A real man is a person who stops in time, not a coward who fears everything," said Thuy.

Writing to prove herself

"Vanity. Always vanity. Absolute vanity" is how Thuy describes her personality on her Facebook account. But read her entries and you will realize she is not just a beauty queen, but a normal woman and mother, she says.

Now Facebook is the bridge that connects Thuy's writing with the public. Thuy said that she has learned a lot from doing business, and one lesson in particular that doing things by halves is suicide.

"Like doing business, I set plans for every step of my life. I aim to release my first novel in the next three years."

But for now, people read her extracts on Facebook.

"I do not want to reveal my writing too soon. People will read it for one reason: to figure out if and how a beauty queen writes. I need time for my writing to mature and gain a certain depth. I was very surprised to see that such a huge amount of bloggers read and love my stories."

Ten years ago, Thuy's writing would have been seen as an attack on the thought that beautiful girls have no brain. This line of thinking is not so prevalent now and people can appreciate the struggles of a beauty queen and intelligent business woman.

"There is no value in doing something that is not a result of hard work complete with sweat and tears. After writing, I felt completely exhausted and empty. Some people will laugh at this, but for me, it's very real."

Dinh Ha, a blogger on Thuy's friend list, said that Thuy's writing, with its humor and intelligence, is different to that of other local queens.

"Reading Chuyen cai to kien, you can see that Thuy has a sensitive soul and considerable savvy. Her writing really draws a distinction between Thuy and other celebrities that are involved in the current "˜writing frenzy'" said Ha.

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