My name is Stephanie Tavy Preap, 20, and I reside in Houston, Texas. I was born in Long Beach, California before our family moved here when I was very young. Even though I grew up in a predominantly Caucasian neighborhood, my parents never failed to keep me connected with our culture. They spoke mostly Khmer around us and favored Khmer cuisines over American dishes. I also grew up learning apsara dancing and have performed numerous times at the local Buddhist temples.
I am currently studying real estate and work part-time as a waitress. But my real aspiration is an online e-boutique women’s accessories store that my sister and I created called, East Urban (http://shopeasturban.com/). Many people think I model professionally, but the only time I do model is for my company.
Aside from the fashion industry, I am a huge fan of sports and outdoor activities. I grew up spending my weekends fishing. When I was younger, I competed in Tae Kwon Do. In middle school I played tennis, basketball and ran track. Currently, I play flag football for multiple leagues. As much as I love the city, I’ll trade my weekends for hiking and camping any day.
It’s important to know and embrace your roots. You can change a lot about yourself but never where you’re from. I think a higher sense of self is evolved from that alone. A lot of my appreciation for my heritages stems from my two biggest role models: my parents. During the hard times in Cambodia, my parents made their way to the United States. They struggled with the language. They came here with nothing. But despite these challenges, my father was able to complete school to become an aircraft mechanic, built multiple businesses, and provide a comfortable normal life for my siblings. I am forever thankful to them and they only motivate me to be better in every way.
I’ve been back to Cambodia twice and I can say I love everything about it! It’s difficult to select my most memorable moment because I enjoyed everything: fresh cooked seafood right from the ocean, tuk tuk rides, waking up every day to a feast of fruits (might I add mangosteen is my favorite!), Angkor Wat takes my breath away, and the list goes on. Though most of the country is in poverty, the land is rich of culture, life and stories.
Ten years from now, all I wish to continue is to have a life filled with happiness wherever I am.