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Meet Trailblazer Anne Phung Nguyen

Today we’d like to introduce you to Anne Phung Nguyen.

Anne Phung, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
Growing up, I always had a set plan of where I saw my life post-college and I worked hard to make that plan come to life. Go to college, graduate, get a corporate job, get married and have kids all by 27- oh and buy a house by 30 or my early 30’s. I’m currently 30- I don’t have a corporate job, I don’t have kids yet, I don’t own a house, I am not married (however, I am newly engaged!). My life didn’t go accordingly to the plans I had set out but I couldn’t be more grateful for where I am in my life.

Post college, I found myself questioning so many things in my life as I sat in my cubicle processing mortgage documents. I graduated from CSUF with a business management degree in entertainment and tourism management yet I was in the mortgage business because it was the first “real” job I had with benefits, a good paycheck, and a fancy cubicle. I was unhappy not only in my career but in my long term relationship at that time, yet I stayed in both because I had invested so many years in them, I was following the plan I had and I felt like I worked so hard to create this life that people knew me for.

My only outlet at that time was going to the gym and working out, one day it clicked to me to try and pursue a career in the fitness industry. With my mindset at that time, it was to pursue it in the business route- to become a general or district manager. As I was searching for a new job, my current job started laying people off and I happened to be one of them- definitely a blessing in disguise because that gave me the extra push to move forward. I began working at a gym called Crunch as a front desk admin, there I learned the back end of running a gym and as I worked there I noticed the personal trainers there and what they did. I thought to myself, “I can do that, I love people and I love working out.”

I began studying to become a certified personal trainer, at that same time I decided to compete for Miss Vietnam of Southern California. It was something I always wanted to do growing up, but I felt like I wasn’t Vietnamese enough to compete, the age cut off for the pageant was 26- I was 25 at the time and told myself it’s literally now or never. Win or lose, crown or not- I’m going to get on that stage and leave my mark. I made it to top 5 which included a talent section in which I did weight lifting on stage, it was the first time anyone had done that and it was such an empowering feeling to show my family and community my passion. I left all of my on that stage and I was able to bring home the crown for my family and me.

After the pageant I took my certification exam and failed by three questions, it was definitely a low blow to myself but I knew I could have studied more. I re-took the exam and passed, I then began my personal training career in 2014 without really knowing much about running a business. I started with three clients, one of them being my cousin. I made very little money and spent the first six months using my savings and credit card to pay my gym rent and monthly bills. As hard it was, I felt so fulfilled and I knew that this career was my calling. I kept pushing forward and kept sharing my passion and life on social media, gradually, my clientele grew along with my platform.

As I look back on these last five years, it’s been such a roller coaster. Those who follow me on Instagram will tell you that I share my life on my page- the good, the bad and the ugly. In 2015, my Mom passed away and it was the hardest thing I have and continue to go through; every day I am still learning, growing and healing from her passing. I believe with all of my heart that her passing away gave me a chance at a new start- to truly live my life for me and not for the sake of a plan or for the approval of others.

I went from sitting in a cubicle processing paperwork to finding my passion, starting my own small business, winning Miss Vietnam of Southern California, connecting with people around the world, trying out for the WWE, speaking at universities about my story, working with companies such as Passion Planner, Nike, Foodbeast, Barbell Brigade, 1UP Nutrition, and most importantly- waking up every day day being able to do what I love and feel fulfilled with my life. Where I am at is a place I never thought I would be, this was not the plan but this is the beauty of life- YOU are in control of your own destiny and when you start living for yourself, when you start believing in yourself, you take what once was a dream and you turn it into your reality.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
It has absolutely not been a smooth road, far from perfect but that’s what makes this journey so fulfilling because if it was easy- everyone would be able to do it.

Next to my Mom passing away, the hardest thing for me was realizing that not everyone has your best intention in mind. The fitness industry along with every other industry is cutthroat and you have to make sure that you protect yourself. People will be kind to your face and want you on their team as long as they are making money but when real life happens such as my Mom’s passing you will see people’s true colors. I’ve been bullied on social media, people making fake accounts about me, people making fake accounts to leave hateful comments on my page. When I was younger it did hurt my feelings and I have broken down about it but over the years, I have built thick skin and I have learned that what people say about others is just a reflection of how they feel about themselves. Yes, people are entitled to their opinions but I believe that as human beings we need to respect one another; if you don’t have anything nice to say then don’t say anything at all. Carry on.

When it comes to my business, I had to learn everything on my own, running your own small business is tough and I have made a lot of mistakes along the way. There was a period of time where I was in so much debt, I am talking about $10K worth of debt. I had to pick up other jobs on top of personal training in order to pay my monthly bills, the debt was a suffocating feeling and I just felt so helpless. I am grateful to be able to say I have been debt free for over a year now, my mindset has changed drastically since then and I am much more mindful of my finances as well as the way I view material items.

My advice for young women whatever your journey may be, start small and start slow- do not rush any of the processes because there is so much to learn and grow from along the journey. Ask for help, that is something I wish I did sooner in my journey. I used to be shy to ask for help, I felt like I needed to do everything by myself- that I was weak for not being able to do it on my own but that is absolutely not the case. The world that we live in today there is so available to us, we can be whoever we want to be and do whatever we set our hearts to. Spend your time wisely and surround yourself with people who bring out the best in you and who want to see you succeed. Lastly, never give up on yourself even in the darkest of times. The heartache, the pain, the struggle- learn to embrace them because they will be some of the greatest teachers in your life, they will show you just how strong and capable you are.

Please tell us more about your work, what you are currently focused on and most proud of.
I feel that people know me as a woman who aspires to inspire not just about fitness but to pursue a life of happiness and fulfillment. I share almost every detail of my life on social media from my love life to my personal life, my family, my friends, business, fitness, my #coffeeannethoughts which are my posts that I freely write about what I am feeling at that moment. I am not scared to be vulnerable or to say what I think. I am me, I am not here for anyone’s approval. I don’t care how many people follow me or how many likes I get- I post and share my life because I want to and because I know that there’s someone in the world that can relate to the things I am going through.

What makes me most proud is when I get messages from people who let me know that I have impacted their life whether it’s them pursuing their dreams, leaving an abusive relationship, sharing their story of their Mom’s passing- I am proud and honored that people trust me enough to be vulnerable with me and to take their time in writing to me. If I were to die tomorrow, I can die knowing that I lived my life to my fullest and I was able to make a difference in someone’s life.

What sets me apart is that I am not trying to be anyone else but me. I feel that nowadays it’s so hard to be yourself, Instagram is filled with people who look, dress and post the same. Why try to fit in when we were born uniquely? As far as setting me apart in my industry, there aren’t many Asian American women in the health and fitness field as personal trainers. There are a lot of fitness influencers but not many who coach for a living.

So much of the media coverage is focused on the challenges facing women today, but what about the opportunities? Do you feel there are any opportunities that women are particularly well positioned for?
I believe that we are well positioned for everything. Yes, there will be obstacles and challenges along the way, but as women, we are resilient and we are fearless. I feel that as long as we stand together, we will continue to break boundaries and pave the way for a future generation of strong fearless young women.

Contact Info:

  • Website: www.anne-phung.com
  • Email: hello@anne-phung.com
  • Instagram: annephung
  • Facebook: annephung

                                      Image Credit:
John Jefferson IV, Gabrielle Tongol, Terry Huy, Melissa Fe Chapman

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