Olyvia Chac-Nguyen was born and raised in Portland. While she began her career working as a medical receptionist, in recent years she transitioned from the medical industry to the creative world. Chac-Nguyen works as a freelance copywriter, contributing to a wide variety of community-led creative projects in Portland.
In this interview, Chac-Nguyen begins by telling the stories of how her family left Vietnam and arrived in Portland. She describes their experiences adjusting to life in the U.S., including learning English and adjusting to Portland weather. In discussing her family, Chac-Nguyen shares the story of how her maternal grandmother met her grandfather and the family’s journey to find Grandpa Gary through DNA testing in 2021.
Throughout the interview, she highlights the ways in which she was encouraged to engage with her Vietnamese heritage growing up and how her upbringing and connection with family continues to play a central role in her life, including taking care of her grandmother. She describes her experiences as a student in Portland Public Schools and the educational path that led her to copywriting, from studying public health at Oregon State University and working in medicine to studying strategic communications at the University of Oregon and making her long-desired jump to creative work. She also shares about her work in the Vietnamese community through programming and artistic activations.
Thinking back on 2020, she describes how the disruption of the pandemic led many people to reconsider their lives and careers, and how community-led work has become more meaningful in the years since then. She continues this theme with a discussion of her work on various creative projects including Silk Rise and collaborations with Woke PDX and Asians in Advertising. Chac-Nguyen concludes the interview with a discussion of the eclecticism of Portland compared to other cities and describes how she conceptualizes culture as existing on a spectrum rather than dealing in absolutes.