Soon her younger siblings, a brother eight years her junior, along with a sister 10 years younger than Gay, joined her and for the next two-and-a-half years became her sole responsibility as their parents remained in their native land under the communist regime. When questioned about why her affluent parents did not help financially, Gay adamantly asserted that she didn’t want them to help.

“I can save money working on $7 per hour,” insisted Gay, adding, “You can’t spend what you don’t have,” indicating her disdain for living on credit. After explaining how her salary of $400 a week stretched to accommodate the extra mouths, she happily shared some family vacation memories that to this day her brother maintains were “some of the best times in his life.”

“I’d put them in my Maxima to go to Niagara Falls, D.C., Chicago.” Describing those times, she indicated that although they might not have vacationed in the sense that others do, staying in a $35/ a night motel and eating at Burger King enabled them to “see the scenes” of wherever they touristed.

In reference to the economics and lifestyle associated with providing for the needs of her young family while scarcely an adult herself, Gay contended, “I wasn’t struggling.”

At 20, Gay bought her first salon business and inherited four employees. Since Gay had owned and operated a café in Vietnam at 17, this enterprise was already her second business. After studying for two years at UCONN, Gay understandably relinquished her role as a student to focus on her business endeavors and to help her family.

Gratefully conceding that all she knows about business came through observation, Gay appeared unaware of the scope of her keen business sense as she rattled off the names of several businesses that she and her husband, Christopher, own together, but operate independently of each other.

A living example herself, Gay believes that America is truly the land of opportunity and prioritizes giving back to the country that she legally adopted on March 11, 2005 when she became a United States citizen. Annually, on July 4th, she and her staff at Paradise Salon and Spa offer their services to the military and their immediate families for free. At times, individuals who’ve lost their jobs have also benefitted from her and her staff giving free haircuts and manicures. “You have to look good and feel good,” reflected Gay whose community involvement and generosity at one point earned her an award from the Compassionate Corporate Citizens that was presented to her by Mayor John Jenkins.

Her advice to anyone, whether a recent immigrant or lifelong American: “You can do anything, IF you really want to do it!”

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.