Huy Pham, age 21, wakes up at 2:00 every morning to get ready for work. He works the overnight shift at a local Fred Meyer store from 3:00 a.m. to midnight. When he returns home, Pham sits at his desk and studies for the classes he’s taking at the University of Washington Bothell. Despite this hectic schedule, he also makes time for his true passion: b-boy breakdancing.
“I prioritize three things in my life”, says Pham. “They are school, work and b-boying.”
Seattle, once known for its grunge and punk-rock, has slowly evolved into a thriving scene for hip-hop. The city and outskirts host a variety of dance-battle competitions throughout the year that regularly attract b-boy superstars and celebrity dancers.
Pham began dancing in 2008 after his friends introduced him to the world of b-boying. He was instantly hooked and breakdancing became his new passion. Unfortunately, his parents struggled to understand his passion. Pham says it could be due to the amount of injuries he gets from b-boying or it could be their differing cultural perspectives. Pham says his parents come from a culture and generation for which high expectations and hard work are practically daily mantras. Pham was born in America after his parents immigrated to the United States from Vietnam.
“When I was 12, my dad wanted me to be a professional tennis player while my mom just wanted me to get a stable career after graduating from a four-year university,” explains Pham. “B-boying is my dream and if I can (also) focus on my studies to please my parents, then they couldn’t be any happier to see me strive for that dream.”
Hip-hop was founded by the African-American and Latino communities in New York in the mid ’70s, but more recently many Asian Americans have begun claiming the genre as their own. Pham says hip-hop empowers Asian Americans to defy the negative stereotypes of being weak, submissive and nerdy.
“I think that it’s wonderful that hip-hop has grown so much and is accepted around the world.” says Pham. “It really is for everyone and I’m happy to see other Asians using it to represent us in America.”
It really is for everyone and I’m happy to see other Asians using it to represent us in America.