The illustration depicts Prom Queen singing with her parents on stage. Her dad plays the guitar and her mom dances to the music.


What is the meaning of


In this project we are highlighting the experiences of people in the state of Texas.

Angela Lim speaks with Promqueen, an artist based in Austin, Texas. Singing in English and Vietnamese, she began the Promqueen project in June 2022 and has since then made her music a time capsule of her personal and familial stories over the years.

This Austin artist honors her Vietnamese family and language through songwriting

by | Sep 7, 2023

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by ANGELA LIM | Next Generation Radio, Texas Newsroom & UTEP | September 2023

Click here for audio transcript

[Sound of Promqueen singing her song “out of my head” and playing the keyboard]

PROMQUEEN: Ever since I was two, I was singing like karaoke in like Vietnamese and English. And my dad would play guitar. We went to church, so I sang in choir. Music and my family are always hand in hand, and they supported me in that, you know, supported me when I sang in choir, went to my piano recital, lessons. So that’s always been a big part. I think that’s always tied to my family and how they feel and express music.

My name is Promqueen, she/her, they/them. I am a second-generation, queer artist based in Austin, Texas. I’m also a music educator, community organizer. I do a lot of creative workshops, centering around AAPI community here.  

When I reflected more on Promqueen and what it meant, growing up, I had my friends and I just had my bubble. But I was never gonna be prom queen, right? Like I wasn’t in the popular crowd. The name “Promqueen,” it just sort of is a taking back of… Promqueen can be anybody in anything, and it’s not necessarily what we all think a prom queen should be. And so it’s just kind of taking them back to make it what I want on my own terms. 

Throwing in Vietnamese words into my songs, exploring like my childhood through my songs, it just unlocked more of me coming back to what home means.

For so long I separated myself from it, also from upbringing, like my parents are immigrants from Vietnam. They’re trying to assimilate. They’re like, “Try to have really good English,” right? “Try to have a good English accent.” So I’m not trying to be Vietnamese or, you know, reveal any of my culture to my friends when I’m around them. So whenever I threw it back into my music, it just felt good and it felt like home again. I was like, “Oh, I just get to be like myself in my music.”

This is just my story – and not only my story, but there are songs about my mom, my dad, my great-grandmother, my grandmother. They’re finding their ways in Promqueen’s projects.

[Sound of Promqueen singing her song “Ain’t Perfect” and playing the keyboard]

It’s been really cool to connect with my mom more so. Growing up, she was just like, “Don’t use Vietnamese, you know, with your white friends in school.” But when does the word nước mắm — which just means fish sauce — when has that ever been played on the radio? And she hears it and she just smiles. She beams. I mean, she’s just like, you know, feeling so seen through all these Vietnamese words that I use.

My mom has always been very supportive from day one with my music career. I mean, she’s like, “Life is short.” She’s like, “You need to do things you enjoy and that you have a passion for.’” Every step of the way she’s just been, just ecstatic about my project. And when I told her about the name Promqueen, she was like, ‘Finally, you’re not using your real name.’

And I was like, “Okay, mom.” [laughs] But she was like, ‘It needs to be a stage name. I’m like, ‘Okay, I got you, mom…’

When times are hard, you know, there’s my mom there. She’ll sit and just hear me gab about my show and she’ll just be like, “Tell me more.”

[Recording of a phone call between Promqueen and her mom]

SUSAN LUONG: Favorite Promqueen song?

PQ: Yeah.

SL: All the songs are my favorite.

PQ: But which one’s like —

SL: Everything you sing is my favorite. Remember I’m your number one fan?

PQ: I know, mom, but like, which one do you like the most —

[Phone call recording fades out]

It’s been awesome to write something where Vietnamese American folks like me can be in on the joke. And allies who listen and don’t understand, that’s fine. Music is music. It’s universal. They can feel it even if they don’t understand it. 

[Sound of Promqueen singing her song “bts girl” over an instrumental track]

What I want most is what I feel when I’m on stage, and that is feeling like I’m 2 years old again.

Feeling safe and expressive in my living room, dancing and singing at the top of my lungs… I would just want people to feel childlike again, to be able to express who they are and not be afraid to do that.

[Sound of Promqueen performing “bts girl” fades out]


Growing up, Casie Luong considered herself a misfit. In school, she dabbled in classical piano, choir and theater. And as her love for music grew, she noticed that her peers never asked her about her Vietnamese upbringing. At home, she says she didn’t emulate the typical Vietnamese woman from movies and pop culture.

“That wasn’t me. I did not like wearing dresses growing up,” she says. “As a baby, I ripped the bows out of my hair… I was just loud and weird and didn’t fit that stereotype. [I] didn’t fit the submissive, quiet, graceful, effeminate kind of Vietnamese woman.”


She was never part of the popular crowd, and she was never the prom queen — until she claimed this as her stage name in June 2022.


“[I want] everybody to feel like they can be their own prom queen, be their own unique self and be celebrated,” she says. “That’s really what I’ve reflected on what it means for me.”

Promqueen smiles and sings into a microphone in front of a colorful backdrop. She wears a pink choker, black and white checkered pants and a black leather puff-sleeved jacket over a white top with green vine wrapped around her body.

Promqueen performs “bts girl,” the last song on her debut EP “szn one,” in her living room in Central Austin, Texas on Sept. 4. The artist released her album in June 2023. Angela Lim/Next Gen Radio

Promqueen, a second-generation Vietnamese American, queer musician in Austin, Texas infuses her songs with her family’s language and anecdotes. Born and raised in Wichita Falls, Texas, she says her parents emphasized assimilating in the majority-white town in fear of getting scrutinized for being different. She says her artist name represents her “cultural coming out” on her own terms. Previous generations, personal experiences and bilingual verses blend into her discography.

“[I want] everybody to feel like they can be their own prom queen, be their own unique self and be celebrated.”


Vietnamese American, queer musician

“Music has always been my main place of expression,” Promqueen said. “My parents liked music. My dad played some music, but it was, funny enough, a place that they don’t have expertise in. I got to really be myself, go into different worlds and explore and process my feelings… Music is definitely the place in which I can express my thoughts and synthesize them.”

In June 2023, she released her debut EP “szn one” which includes eight songs chronicling the Asian American experience and taking back one’s confidence and cultural pride.

From stories to songs

Promqueen has spent the last 10 years working on a memoir about herself and her family. While having breakfast with her dad, she listened to his stories of survival during the Vietnam War, which prompted her to start interviewing her parents and relatives. Looking to find the best medium to tell their stories, she says she revisits their voice memos during her songwriting process.

“When you ask people to tell a story and then you ask them to tell it again, they’ll reveal other details,” she said.

“When you ask people to tell a story and then you ask them to tell it again, they’ll reveal other details.”


Vietnamese American, queer artist

In “liteweight,” an airy track with trap beats from “szn one,” Promqueen references her mom’s going to pawn shops when she worked a full-time waitress job. On the weekends, her mom would make layaway payments on gold jewelry, a symbol of affluence, she said. 

“It’s a really fun song about treating yourself, and it’s about her, how she works so hard and wants to enjoy the things in life that she didn’t get to have in Vietnam,” she says.

“Ain’t Perfect,” an emotional ballad on her next album, is about her hope that her family will remain a constant stronghold for her despite struggles and conflicts. Promqueen invited her mom to perform this song with her at her “szn one” album release event in July. At every show, she brings old photos of herself and her parents so that they can always be together onstage, she said.

Promqueen says her relationship with her mom has grown stronger since starting the project. Her mom welcomes her musical and creative direction with open arms, she said.


“[She’s] my main advocate and when times are hard, there’s my mom there,” she said. “She’ll sit and just hear me gab about my show, and she’ll just be like, ‘Tell me more.’ That’s the only person on this planet that will be that for me.”

‘I just get to be myself in my music’

Promqueen’s lyrics, a mix of English and Vietnamese, are emblematic of how she speaks with her parents. Growing up, they encouraged her to speak English with an American accent in school.

Trying to retain both languages, Promqueen said she experienced a slight language barrier. She and her family lacked the resources to properly handle the American educational system.

“There was no one to help me [or] my parents… My parents didn’t know about the school system or how to navigate that,” she said. “They had never been to an American school, so they were already at a disadvantage, which put me at a disadvantage.”

Promqueen said that releasing music in her language has helped her celebrate and reconnect with her Vietnamese identity.

“Whenever I threw [Vietnamese] back into my music, it just felt good, and it felt like home again,” she said. “I was like, ‘Oh, I just get to be myself in my music.’ It’s not like I’m trying to sit and conjure up and plan and make everything exactly right.”

A medium shot of old photos of Promqueen with her mom and dad on top of a school desk chair marked with words and drawings.

A framed photograph of a 1-year-old Promqueen with her mom and dad, Susan Luong and Jay Luong, respectively, in her living room in Central Austin, Texas on Sept. 4. Promqueen brings the photo on stage so that her parents can have a front-row seat for her performances. Angela Lim/Next Gen Radio

Through her performances, she said she wants fellow Vietnamese Americans to feel proud of their heritage and feel a sense of belonging.

“I just hope [audiences] can connect with joy and for people closer to home, Vietnamese Americans, to feel seen — to hear words that they know and be like, ‘Wow, there’s a part of me there,’” she said. “And that resonates with them, their memories and their connection to their culture.”

Amplifying Asian American voices

Promqueen is also a music educator and community organizer, and she says that the Austin music industry needs more advocates and allies to uplift the voices of Asian American and Pacific Islander artists. While these musicians have a presence in the industry, she says, they need more visibility and support. According to the 2022 Greater Austin Music Census, 3.8% of people in a music-related career identify as Asian or Asian American.

“It’s always like, you gotta know somebody, that booker, and they don’t have that access point,” she said. “And so, if we don’t have that access point, we won’t be seen on those more mainstream stages and event spaces.”

Promqueen said that while the city hosts various Asian American cultural events, there aren’t enough artists who look like her at festivals such as Austin City Limits and South by Southwest. She hopes to help carve more room for them and other artists of color.

“I’d love to see it more normalized for more AAPI artists, up and coming even,” she said. “There should be more accessibility for people who are just starting out. I think that’s really important to make space for.”

‘It’s my journey’

Since making music as Promqueen and going back to her roots, she said her definition of home has deepened through collaborating with community members and those who have supported her. She said she finds home easily in creative spaces, such as filming music videos and working on set design.

“I just kind of make a home wherever I go, and that means connecting with the people around me,” she said.

A close-up shot of Promqueen’s hands while playing a red piano keyboard.

Promqueen plays a piano keyboard in her living room in Central Austin, Texas on Sept. 4. The artist’s parents enrolled her in classical piano lessons during her childhood, and she has since released one EP. She began creating original music as a student at Austin College in Sherman, Texas. Angela Lim/Next Gen Radio

A close-up shot of Promqueen’s stage set design that includes a red envelope, a Polaroid photo and vines wrapped around a wooden lattice divider.

The backdrop Promqueen uses onstage in her living room in Central Austin, Texas on Sept. 4. Her set is filled with photos of her family, friends and crew, along with red envelopes – a symbol of good luck usually given on Lunar New Year. Angela Lim/NextGen Radio

“I just kind of make a home wherever I go, and that means connecting with the people around me.”


Vietnamese American, queer artist

Beyond comfort and familiarity, Promqueen said that home also relates to having the courage to confront her past.

“How I relate to my family members, places in which I’ll never be understood, places in which I am understood — home is processing all of those feelings on my own terms and what it means for me and resting in that,” she says.

Carrying the weight of her family’s stories, Promqueen hopes to continue sharing music that can help herself and other listeners navigate their life course.

“It’s my journey,” she said. “And I’m grateful for the paths that my family members have paved for me through their struggle, through their work, through their efforts and their persistence.”