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Getting Ready for the Oscars With Activist Amanda Nguyen

Photo: Kate Warren

In 2013, Amanda Nguyen was a student at Harvard University when she was raped and quickly learned first-hand about the legal system’s shortcomings for survivors of sexual violence. Her experience led her to found Rise, a civil-rights organization which strives to create justice to sexual-assault survivors.

In 2019, Nguyen’s work was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize for creating culture change with storytelling. And this year, she was invited to attend the 92nd Oscars. It was Nguyen’s first time at the awards ceremony, and she kept a diary of the adventure, which she shared with the Cut. Read on to for Amanda’s experience getting dressed for the biggest red carpet in the world, and her highlights from the night, including her custom gown by Thai Nguyen and Tim Nguyen.

From left: Photo: Thai NguyenPhoto: Tim Nguyen
From left: Photo: Thai NguyenPhoto: Tim Nguyen

“The Oscars red carpet, in a sense, is the world’s biggest fashion show. Fashion can act as a creative outlet of expression. As a sexual-assault survivor, agency is important to me. That’s why I care about fashion — it allows me to have agency in what I wear, how I look, and what I want to say to the world. And at the Oscars, I had a special message to share. I wanted to represent and pay homage to both my Vietnamese culture and my work with survivors. That’s why the dress drew inspiration from a Phoenix. In Vietnam, the Phoenix is a symbol of grace, rebirth, and pride. As a survivor, the Phoenix represents rebirth from trauma. I worked with incredible Vietnamese designers Thai Nguyen and Tim Nguyen to create the dress. We went through a couple of sketches before settling on a design.”

Photo: Kate Warren

“The day started at 9 a.m. with my incredible hair and makeup artist Stephanie Scholz. Thai came over with bubble tea for everyone, and made some last-minute edits on the dress!”

Clockwise from top left: Photo: Kate WarrenPhoto: Kate WarrenPhoto: Kate Warren
Clockwise from top left: Photo: Kate WarrenPhoto: Kate WarrenPhoto: Kate Warren

“Diana Tsui styled me for the event and wow, did she deliver.”

Handbag and shoes by Christian Louboutin, earrings by Piaget, rings by Le Vian, and brooch by De Beers. Photo: Kate Warren

“Here’s the finished look! My favorite part about this dress is how flowy it is.”

From left: Photo: Kate WarrenPhoto: Kate Warren
From left: Photo: Kate WarrenPhoto: Kate Warren

“I actually have to confess — I had enormous impostor syndrome. I asked my friends to come with me in the car to drop me off at the red carpet. I’m so grateful to have such wonderful people in my life!”

From left to right: Cameron Marsh, Kate Warren, Thai Nguyen, MILCK, Amanda Nguyen, Patrick Tomas, and Shannon. Photo: Cameron Marsh

“Going through security to get dropped off is a whole experience in itself. I started to get butterflies when I saw the actual red carpet. Here’s the moment when it hit!”

Photo: Kate Warren

“I was so happy when Parasite won. What a historic moment for Asian Excellence! One of my favorite memories of the night was when Questlove became my hero and held my dress’ train as we headed to the Governor’s Ball. Thank you Questlove, you are the best!”

Photo: Zarah Zohlman

“The food at the Governor’s Ball was fantastic. In particular, I loved their chocolate mini Oscars.”

Food by Wolfgang Puck and ring by Le Vian. Photo: Courtesy of Amanda Nguyen

“The best part of the night was meeting Stella, who was working the red carpet and told me that she had read up about Rise’s work. She expressed how meaningful our work was to her and helped me feel comfortable on one of the world’s biggest stages. I was so grateful! She also teaches criminal justice at DeVry university. While I met a lot of celebrities that night, Stella was my favorite person on the carpet.”

Photo: Courtesy of Amanda Nguyen

“Thank you so much to the Academy for having me! I had the time of my life celebrating the art of storytelling!”

Photo: Kate Warren
Getting Ready for the Oscars With Activist Amanda Nguyen