Welcome to a series on Proudly dedicated to sharing the stories of a range of influential LGBTQ+ content creators from all walks of life. This series will enable us to showcase their experiences in the industry to inspire future content creators from our community.
We want to shine light on the people who have made strides in a very competitive industry. Hopefully this series is the start of something special for Proudly where we have been lucky enough to interview inspiring people such as: Scott McGlynn, Sassify Zine, Dan Morrissey, Matt Horwood, Joe Wilmot, Jon Holmes and A Gay And A Non Gay podcast hosts James Barr and Dan Hudson who have shared their incredible stories with us already.
For today’s article Proudly spoke with Amazin LêThi, a competitive bodybuilder, global Vietnamese LGBTQ+ sports and human rights advocate, who was the first Asian ambassador for Athlete Ally and Stonewall and the first LQBTQ+ Asian athlete to appear in the Rainbow Laces campaign.
Amazin agreed to film a video interview via Zoom so in this article you will see a mix of video answers with a summary in text alongside written content from Proudly’s own research into the incredible life of Amazin LêThi.
The background of Amazin LêThi
Born in Saigon Vietnam, Amazin LêThi was left in an orphanage by her mother. Amazin was then adopted by a couple in Australia and sadly suffered a lot of bullying and racism as a child growing up as a transracial adoptee due to being the only Vietnamese kid in an all-white background.
Something Amazin struggled with growing up was finding any sort of Asian representation within the media which made her feel different and outcasted to other people in society as they only making 1% of leading roles in film and in television.
This just makes Amazin’s acheivments so much more validating and remarkable. Amazin earned her way to the top with achievements through heart and dedication that include, a former competitive bodybuilder, entertainment executive and the first Vietnamese internationally published fitness author and fitness writer. Amazin has captured audiences with her story from the United Nations to Google and governments from all around the world.
As a thought leader and through conversations, panel discussions and Q&As, Amazin shares her personal journey of homelessness to becoming one of the most visible and influential LGBTQ activists in the world. Her story was included in the ‘It Gets Better’ campaign and the first White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders Asian anti-bullying campaign ‘Act to Change’.
Describing this moment as ‘her best moment so far’ to Gay Star News Amazin was invited to the first White House global LGBTQ human rights forum during the Obama administration as a guest of the Harvey Milk Foundation. ‘I was the only Vietnamese LGBTI advocateinvited to the event. Joe Biden then invited everyone to his home for a reception.’
Amazin LêThi Foundation
In the summer 2021, Amazin will be launching the Amazin LêThi Foundation with a flagship program to support and address LGBTQ youth experiencing homelessness through leadership and development using sports as the platform for change. This is what Amazin had to say about the importance of her foundation.
‘Having a foundation is really just an extension of the work I have been doing as an advocate as an individual.’
‘I have piloted some programmes within Vietnam which will become my flagship programme that will launch in 2021 and it is a programme I wanted when I was a kid that involves leadership, mentorship, sports, business and education where I can meet business leaders, community leaders, sports leaders where I can see myself celebrated within the community but also as a fast-track career path.’
(The Foundation) ‘Wants to particulary help LGBTQ+ people suffering with homelessness because now we have had this panedmic for the last few months and there are so many vulnerable LGBTQ+ communities and youth who are expraincing homelssness and dont neccessarily recieve the support they need and that’s what I will be championing through my foundationa aswell as my sports advocacy work.’
For further information: www.amazinlethi.com
Amazin’s ‘rainbow’ sexuality
Whilst growing up Amazin became homeless and had to move in and out of different shelters. Constantly battling her mental health made Amazin question her existence and even contemplated suicide.
Alongside this Amazin struggled with understanding her sexuality. Always knowing she wasn’t straight as a child, Amazin chooses to refer to her sexuality as a ‘rainbow’ a Vietnamese term for ‘queer‘. She spoke with Proudly about the meaning behind the sexuality term ‘rainbow’.
‘In terms of my label it’s actually something the Vietnamese community use and I feel it is much more encompassing now the spectrum of sexuality and gender identity is so vast and so much broader than LGBTQ+ worldwide, so rainbow is an uplifting and easier way for me to define because everybody loves rainbows after the thunderstorm’Amazin LêThi on her ‘rainbow’ sexuality label
How sport saved Amazin
Amazin rediscovered her love for sport, health and fitness. Focusing all her time inside the gym which lead to a passion for weight training and bodybuilding. Knowing it is a sport she can do alone, weight training was the perfect haven for Amazin to invest all her time into productively and lead her into a job as a strength training coach where she trained young athletes for the Olympics and became the first internationally published Vietnamese health and fitness author.
Within the gym Amazin found a sense of community as the respect she received was based on her athletic ability rather than her appearance declaring she was just trying to get stronger in the face of adversity. Although Amazin also felt targeted as the gym demographic was 100 percent male adults which lead to her suffering sexism and misogyny.
Sexuality within sports
Describing bodybuilding as a very ‘heteronormative masculine sport with a lot of misogamy and sexism, women still stugggle within bodybuilidng as they break these gender norms where they have muscles but can be feminine.’ Amazin also highlighted the vast amount of homophobia within the weightlifting community.
“I always thought through sports I could never come out and the bodybuilding federation made it very clear that they could be no LGBTQ+ athletes openly out in sports.”Amazin LêThi on holding back her sexuality whilst competing in bodybuilding
To this day male dominated sports are still very toxic towards the LGBTQ+ community. With over 4,500 professional football players currently playing across the top five leagues not one of them is openly gay. Sadly homophobia within football is a regular occurrence even on the 1st February 2020, two West Ham United fans were arrested in London Stadium by the police for directing homophobic chants towards Brighton & Hove Albion fans during a Premier League Match.
Chelsea also banned Manchester United fans from entering their stadium in February 2020 after they were caught chanting homophobic abuse. You can click the link to view the statement by Chelsea here.
This is why need more people like Amazin to be role-models for the future generations of athletes. Sadly, stories like these are all too regular within the LGBTQ+ community and ethnic minorities, who often struggle to feel accepted within sports. It was actually only when Amazin LêThi left competitive bodybuilding that she actually came out. Stating that she was ‘too busy focusing on training, eating right and competing‘ to allow time to discover herself saying it was a ‘last thought that didn’t even come into her mind.’
Something Amazin is very passionate about is her global LGBTQ sports equality advocacy work.
Representation and advocacy
Although Amazin believes that representation within sports has improved overtime. Currently working in advocacy, Amazin’s main interests are increasing the visibility of east Asian LGBTQ+ people in media and sport.
(sexuality and representation within sports) ‘is better than it used to be, but we need more visibility from different racial groups. For example during the last Olympics they said they haven’t had so many LGBTQ+ athletes at the olympics before but what they should have said is that they have never had so many white LGBTQ+ athletes at the Olmypics.’
‘This is probelmatic to LGBTQ+ people from different racial backgrounds as we don’t neccesarily see oursleves in sports media or on the field which makes it very difficult for us to feel comfortable within sports. There are improvements needed to be made in terms of power of storytelling that make sure when we discuss openly LGBTQ+ athletes in the media it is diverse.’Amazin discussing LGBTQ+ representation within sports
With incredible charities and campaigns such as ‘It Gets Better’, ‘Rainbow Laces‘ and the incredible work of sport ambassadors at Stonewall such as Amazin LêThi who was the first Asian ambassador for Stonewall and the first LQBTQ+ Asian athlete to appear in the Rainbow Laces campaign. This is what Amazin had to say about the important work of Stonewall and what it means to be a sports ambassador.
What it means to be the first Asian sports ambassador for Stonewall
Amazin is very proud and honoured to be the first Asian ambassador for Stonewall and highlighted the importance of her role within the charity.
‘When I think of my role within Stonewall it’s about amplifying the Asian LGBTQ+ voices and discussing the challenges and barriers that we face within UK sports because when you look at team GB nobody looks like me who is homegrown and all the football players that are from east Asia have came from Asia and are not homegrown which is probelmatic.’
‘I do a lot of work within the UK goverment, sports and media discussing these challenges that we face within sports from school level to professional level on the steps we need to take so we have a diverse group of athletes in sports because the face of the UK is changing but the face of sports is not. We must do so much more work to culturvate a safe and nurturing enviroment where sports feels welcome for everyone.’Amazin discussing her role as a Stonewall UK Sports Ambassador
It goes without saying life is never easy and we all experience personal battles with our mental health that can be damaging, it can make or break us. Amazin is no stranger to these struggles as she suffered a horrible amount of bullying growing up for being who she was and atone point became homeless where she contemplated suicide
Amazin recalls certain memories and encounters that really affected her growing up. One terrible moment happened when she was just eight years old. Once again beging singled out for being different, Amazin shared a horric story where her teacher reduced her to tears as she made her stand up in class in front of everyone and encouraged everybody to laugh at Amazin as she said ‘this child, among every child I know in this room, will be the one that fails in life and that Amazin would amount to nothing but a potato peeler.‘ Shortly after, the teacher threw a blackboard eraser at Amazin’s head.
Although nobody could foresee what the future would hold for Amazin LêThi. These memories will always be a constant reminder for Amazin to never give up as you will never know what greener pastures await you. This is what she had to say about how her personal battles shaped her into the role-model she is today.
‘I wouldn’t be the person I am today if I hadn’t of gone through all of my personal battles.’
‘I probably wouldnt be doing any community work either as you do your advocacy work usually because of the journey you have had as it shapes you in terms of the resilliance you have within life.’
‘Because of sport i’m a very different person and I see it as a survival skill that I have had throughout my whole life with the unique skills that I have picked up along the way that I have used throughout different assets of my life.’Amazin LêThi discussing her personal growth and how it shaped her into the person she is today
These moments will always be outshone by the incredible achievements Amazin has made during her lifetime being a former competitive bodybuilder, entertainment executive and the first Vietnamese internationally published fitness author.
Stonewall listed even more special moments that include becoming the first LGBTQ+ Asian athlete to appear in the Rainbow Laces campaign. Being listed in the 2019 Australian Pride Power List, the Out 100 list and, for the second year, listed in the Human Rights Campaign Asian Heritage month honours list. Amazin is now training to compete in competitive shooting and aims to make LGBTQ+ history as the first openly out athlete to compete for Vietnam at the South East Asian Games.
Amazin was asked if she has any particular memorable moments from her illustrious career.
‘I don’t have any particular standout moment, I have different moments along the way, I could have never imagined the path that I have trailed for myself.’
‘It really came down to sharing my story and work and my love of sport to as many people as I could and hope it would resonate with people but I could have never have imagined going to the White house, being the first Asian to do so many things along the way, it was never planned and I always think. I should be doing more.’Amazin LêThi on any standout moments during her life
Amazin has experienced some incredible once in a lifetime moments because of the amazing work and contributions she has made throughout her illlustrious sports career and advocacy work. Amazin LThi is an inspirational role-model and LGBTQ+ infleuncer we at Proudly have been honoured to have spoken with her and shared her remarkable story on our website.
Lastly, we asked Amazin if she has any expert advice for the next generation of LGBTQ+ athletes.
Amazin’s advice to the next generation of LGBTQ+ athletes
‘Stand in your truth and that you are enough and you have always been enough.’
‘It is so important to bring your whole self to work and be your athentic self because when you hide bits of yourself that are there most important it becomes such heavy baggage and a heavy burden you have to carry around and have to lie to so many people remmeber those lies and it becomes so diffcult to be yourself in sports and i’m far more succesful now being me and showing up as me than showing up as parts of me and hiding these parts of me that made me whole.’Amazin LêThi’s advice to future generations of LGBTQ+ athletes
Feature image used for this article is by photographer Alina Oswald
Amazin LêThi is a competitive bodybuilder, global Vietnamese LGBTQ+ sports and human rights advocate, who was the first Asian ambassador for Athlete Ally and Stonewall and the first LQBTQ+ Asian athlete to appear in the Rainbow Laces campaign.