‘It’s Cool to Be the First’: Singer thuy on Making History at Coachella

She is the first Vietnamese American female artist to play at the famed musical festival.

She is the first Vietnamese American female artist to play at the famed musical festival.


(Photo: Edgar Daniel)

by Samantha Lui
April 19, 2024

When thuy first received a text from her agents telling her they had surprise news, she initially thought she was in trouble. 

At the time, she was driving to the San Francisco Bay Area —where she was raised— and couldn’t take the anticipation any longer. She stopped her car and immediately hopped on a call with her agents. 

Moments later, they announced that she had gotten an offer to play at Coachella. 

“I remember them all screaming and my face was just frozen. I was expecting something totally different,” thuy tells The RepresentASIAN Project over Zoom weeks before the music festival. 

“It turned out to be probably the best news I’ve ever heard in my career!” 

The moment is particularly “dope” for the 32-year-old singer, who is playing both weekends at Coachella as its first Vietnamese American female performer. But it did take a while to sink in. 

“I don’t think I realized how big it was until I started seeing blogs from Vietnam talking about it,” she said.

“I think it’s really cool to be the first, but I think obviously there needs to be more of that.” 

Nonetheless, playing at Coachella is a role thuy doesn’t take lightly. 

“I always put so much energy and effort into all the shows that I have. Coachella is no different. I’m definitely coming at this like the Super Bowl of all festivals.” 

Making ‘girls like me don’t cry’ 

Playing at Coachella is the latest highlight in what has been a breakout year for thuy, who toured across Europe and North America and opened for Ella Mai in 2023. But it’s her 2022 track “girls like me don’t cry” that continues to resonate with people, and found viral success on social media. The song has since shown up in over 10 million TikTok videos and has over 26 million views on YouTube. 

Due to its relatable lyrics, the song has also helped women — predominantly Asian women — feel comfortable about showing their emotions and being a “crybaby.” So much so, that thuy even had her fans send in videos and photos of them crying so she could create a compilation of them with her song. 

“I think sometimes there’s a misconception that women, in order to be strong, you don’t cry,” thuy said. “I feel like women are not allowed to show emotion. Sometimes that can be deemed as weakness.” 

The breezy pop-R&B track details a story about the recovery of a toxic relationship. But when sung live, it feels like a big party. At concerts, thuy makes a point of inviting her fans (who she lovingly calls her fellow “crybabies”) onto the stage to dance with her. She says the inspiration to bring people along for the ride comes from being from a Vietnamese household, where her parents would often host parties. 

“I love including people and just giving them something to remember.” 


crybabies unite!!!!! full video out on youtube!!!!

♬ girls like me don’t cry (sped up) – thuy

When thuy recalls the story of making “girls like me don’t cry”, she remembers being at a point in her life where she felt lost about her career and a “little bit depressed.” But instead of laying in bed doing nothing, she forced herself into the recording studio. 

“I was like, ‘I really want to write a song about moving to Los Angeles and having nothing in my bank account but a lot of tissues because I’m such a crybaby,’” thuy said. 

Within hours, the song came together. That day, her gut told her she had just made a hit song. 

“I knew instantly when we made the song, this is gonna go off because it was such a meaningful song to me. And I needed to write that for myself in the moment.”

Finding a passion for music 

Born in Stockton, California to Vietnamese refugee parents, Thuy Thi Thu Tran was raised in Newark in the Bay Area. 

As a child, thuy grew up idolizing pop and R&B stars like Britney Spears, Brandy, Mariah Carey and Christina Aguilera, and developed a love for singing. But while thuy had fantasized seeing herself performing on stage and winning awards like her idols, there were no Vietnamese artists -— let alone Asian — for her to look up to. 

As a result, she didn’t see music as a viable career path at first. 

“Coming from immigrant parents, I definitely felt a lot of pressure to go to school and get a degree and get a job that my parents could brag about,” she said. 

It was only in college when thuy started making music more seriously, though she was still worried about disappointing her parents. So, she continued her studies with a plan to pursue a career in the medical field, working jobs at an optometry office, and shadowing a physician assistant at Stanford. 

But when it was time for her to apply to school to become a physician assistant herself, thuy missed the application date by a day. Around the same time, an opportunity for her to move to Los Angeles arose when a former recording engineer she worked with reached out to her. The moment felt like the right time to take a leap of faith to achieve her musical dreams, despite her parents not entirely approving of her decision. 

Months after moving to Los Angeles, thuy recalls her parents thinking of her musical aspirations as “a hobby.” It only sunk in when thuy’s singing career made it on the local news in the Bay Area that they started taking notice and supported her decision. 

‘They were like, ‘Well, my daughter’s famous!’ It was really cool to finally have my parents on board,” she said. “Despite all the streams and everything like that, they didn’t care about that. They cared [more] about getting on the hometown news station because all my aunties and uncles were like, ‘Wait your daughter is on TV!’” 

Finding confidence in herself 

Thuy’s burgeoning singing career comes at a time when more and more Asian artists are finding global success, including western artists like Keshi, Joji, beabadoobee and Rina Sawayama.

But while genres like K-pop are currently dominating mainstream music charts, thuy acknowledges there can be room for more representation when it comes to Asian artists. 

One of the things thuy wants to own is finding confidence in one’s own body, something she didn’t always feel comfortable about as a young girl. She highlights this in the single “don’t miss me too much”, a sultry dance-R&B track that sees her embracing her body and her curves. The music video, which is edgier and sexier than her previous singles, features her dancing in a dark warehouse with people of all genders, body types, races and sexualities. 

“I just think that where I’m at in my life right now is that I don’t want to be apologetic for who I am,” she said. “I just wanted to show a thick Vietnamese Asian girl being sexy and confident in her own skin. I think we need more of that.” 

With all the success coming thuy’s way in recent years, she remains laser-focused on the future. Along with new music, this year she’s also slated to play a set at  Head in the Clouds New York in May. 

The singer also has some long term goals.

“I’m manifesting a Grammy one day,” thuy said. “In my mind, I know it’s possible. But I think I’ve always been crazy. I’ve always been crazy in the sense that no dream is too big.” 

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