For YouTuber, an opportunity to keep Vietnamese culture alive

The idea for Temple alumna Kayla Nguyen’s YouTube channel came in the form of a challenge from her sister.

Britney Spears’ “Oops!… I Did It Again” was the first song Nguyen decided to translate into Vietnamese. Nguyen chose to film herself singing and posted it to YouTube.

The video has garnered nearly 150,000 views and launched Nguyen’s channel, “Vietglish Fun.” Since the first video posted in July 2014, Nguyen has shared 11 videos of her translations and amassed close to 12,000 subscribers.

Nguyen attributes part of her success to social media and the ability to share her videos across multiple platforms, including Facebook and Twitter.

As a child growing up in Philadelphia, Nguyen used American pop songs as a way to connect with her peers. Today, she uses those songs to connect a diverse audience of viewers.

From an early age, Nguyen said she felt pressure from her parents to enter a medical field, specifically optometry.

“I didn’t feel that was right,” Nguyen, a film and media arts graduate, said. “For me, I don’t know if my passion [was] to study eyes.”

Ngyuen had plans to become an optometrist, but in high school she said she enjoyed writing scripts, acting and filming. Nguyen said she chose to study film and media arts at Temple because it is her “calling” to contribute to Vietnamese media.

“[There is not Vietnamese media] with good ethics or good messages,” Nguyen said. “I want to do something to change that.”

As a student, Nguyen founded ChomChom Productions and served as president of the club during her freshman year at Temple. She said she began talking to friends about starting the club in fall of her freshman year. By spring, the club was officially recognized by the university. ChomChom Productions started as a club dedicated to Vietnamese media, but later expanded to include all types of film and video.

“Everybody in ChomChom is extremely close, because of the projects that we’ve worked on together,” Nguyen said. “Doing really late shoots, coming up with scripts together, just having fun together. The teamwork created these strong friendships.”

Since Nguyen has graduated, she plans on rebuilding the organization outside of Temple. Nguyen said she wants to bring the organization back to its roots by focusing on Vietnamese media.

Today, Nguyen is currently producing Temple graduate student Jamel Northern’s short film titled “Blind Date.”

“It’s been really helping me learn how to launch projects and [create ways] to engage people into projects,” Nguyen said. “That’s actually helped me with ‘Vietglish Fun’ as well.”

Nguyen said working on Northern’s film and other Temple-related projects has taught her about working in a team, organization and the patience required when working on a project.

“Working with [Northern] has helped me really understand that you have to do things little by little,” Nguyen said. “It’s many tasks that build up, and add up, to contribute to the bigger project. Right now, I don’t really see the big picture. But it’s like little pieces of the puzzle. Keep building and building and then soon [I will] see the bigger picture.”

Producing films is something Nguyen hopes to continue to do in the future.

“It’s so beautiful when you take all the ingredients, put it together and it becomes the art,” Nguyen said. “Producers have control over basically everything.”

Through “Vietglish Fun,” and ChomChom Productions, Nguyen hopes to keep the spirit of Vietnamese culture alive in younger audiences.

“Slowly, the second [and] third generation are losing [their] roots and their language,” Nguyen said. “I want to encourage people to go back to their roots and appreciate their culture and their language.”

Tim Mulhern can be reached at tim.mulhern@temple.edu.

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