MILWAUKEE — Gerber's spokesbaby for 2019 has made history as the first winner of Hmong descent, and the news made a splash in Milwaukee.
One-year-old Kairi Yang is from North Carolina, but with Milwaukee being home to the fourth-largest Hmong concentration in the country, locals said they are excited about the news.
"As I talk to my students they said, 'Mrs. Her-Xiong, we're making history!' Which is so true," said Chris Her-Xiong, executive director for Hmong American Peace Academy.
"I keep getting emails from friends and colleagues from all over the country about how thrilled they are that it's a Hmong baby," said Dr. Chia Vang, a history professor and director of the Hmong Diaspora Studies Program at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
Her-Xiong and Vang were child refugees.
Her-Xiong says with the help of local sponsors the first wave of Hmong arrived in Wisconsin in the 1970s after the Vietnam War. A second wave followed because of the opportunities for education and workforce training.
Both women said even at a young age Kairi is making a statement.
"I keep getting emails from friends and colleagues from all over the country about how thrilled they are that it's a Hmong baby." —Dr. Chia Vang, a history professor and director of the Hmong Diaspora Studies Program at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
"This shows anything can happen. A refugee or an immigrant family have their child they selected as a Gerber baby, who would ever thought in a million years that this would happen," said Her-Xiong.
"I think young people in our community they see themselves as American kids, right? So, yes, it’s just another American baby, but at the same time as someone who looks like them someone whose parents look like them," said Vang.