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Pandora Paj Nra Thao

A University of Wisconsin Oshkosh alumna said her leadership role as Miss Hmong Wisconsin 2023 allowed her to advocate for Hmong youth, supporting them in their pursuit of life goals and dreams.

Pandora Paj Nra Thao of Madison, a spring 2022 graduate who earned a bachelor of science degree in sociology and an emphasis in social equity and diversity, reflected on her reign as Miss Hmong Wisconsin.

“My term did end on Dec.10; however I am not stopping there. I hope to continue working within my Hmong community,” she said.

Thao said she never dreamed she would run for a pageant title. She remembered, as a child, watching young women compete in Hmong pageants. As she grew older, she realized that for her to have a chance to have a voice and be heard, she needed to start taking leadership roles to grow and develop her skills.

After graduating from UWO, she decided it was the perfect time and opportunity for her to pursue the Miss Hmong Pageant.

“Deciding to be a contestant for the Miss Hmong Wisconsin pageant was a challenge because I never had experience being on stage before,” she said. “It was a humbling experience competing with other ambitious Hmong women because we all had similar goals in our community.”

Relating to her contest platform, Thao said most Hmong college students are first generation students and able to receive support in getting an education.

“However, at home it might be more challenging to receive that support from parents when they have never been given the opportunity to receive an education themselves.”

She believes encouraging and supporting Hmong youth to pursue an education is key to their future success.

During her term as Miss Hmong Wisconsin, she enjoyed being able to meet, network and share experiences with others around her.

Thao said she is working at UW Health and living at home in Madison. In her free time, she volunteers and works to give back to her Hmong community. She plans to continue her education pursuing a master’s degree.

“For anyone who wants to try something new, go and try it,” she said. “If you never try, you would never know.”

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