When Trang Nguyen throws a Spice Girls party, she doesn't mess around. None of that dancing in your living room with a few girlfriends business. Karaoke at a dive bar won't do. No, Nguyen holds a screening of Spice World at the Granada Theater and invites all of Dallas to join her. And she'll be right there with everyone else — giant pink inflatable microphone in hand, throwing up the peace sign for a selfie — belting out the words to "2 Become 1."
For the past four and a half years — ever since she was a freshman at UT Dallas — Nguyen has been working behind the scenes at the Granada, first as an intern and then in her current role as the Promotions and Media Coordinator. As a full-time staff member since she graduated college in 2014, she's helped the Lower Greenville concert space branch out from its more traditional music events, helping curate events like the Spice World party earlier this month and running the venue's Instagram account.
Nguyen's path to the Granada brought her all the way from Vietnam, where she was born and grew up until her family moved to Texas when she was six. Her parents are in the nail business, having for a while owned their own salon in Carrollton — not the typical foundation for a career in the music industry. "The music culture in Vietnam is seen very much like whatever you see from the outside, where it's very glamorous and you're rock stars — how you imagined it basically in the '70s," Nguyen says.
While she says she doesn't get to go back to Vietnam as often as she would like, Nguyen insists that it remains an important part of who she is. "That's a very strong part of my identity, even if I maybe don't express it explicitly. That's where I'm from; that's where my roots are," she says. Most importantly, she figures her upbringing had a big effect on her work ethic: "Being a child of immigrants sets expectations really differently," she explains. "In a way, I set really high expectations for myself in terms of, 'I need to attain these goals, I want to impress my parents or do well for them.'"
It would seem Nguyen isn't one to be short on motivation, admitting she's "always been one to stay busy." Most college freshman aren't ambitious enough to be thinking about applying for internships, but that's just how she got her foot in the door at the Granada.
"All I did was email Gavin [Mulloy, who now works at The Bomb Factory] being like, 'Hey, I'm really interested in interning here,'" she recalls. "I didn't think I was going to hear back from him. I was applying to all sorts of internships with little or no experience at the time." But Mulloy did respond, and after interning for a year Nguyen was brought on staff on a part-time basis her sophomore year.
At the same time, Nguyen was involved with Radio UTD, having joined as a DJ at the suggestion of a friend. She worked her way up to promotions and, during her senior year, became the station manager. What she doesn't mention herself is that the station won the College Music Journal awards for the Best Student-Run, Internet-Only Station and Biggest Improvement under her guidance.
"She's modest," says Chris McDonald, who works closely with Nguyen on the promotions team at the Granada and has known her since she first came on as an intern. "When she was running UTD it'd never won any CMJ awards," he adds. "She turned Radio UTD around and set them on the right course."
Even today, Nguyen, now 23, is unusual for having earned a job like hers as quickly as she has — all the more so as a young Asian woman in a male-dominated industry. While she admits that she aims to "bring that voice to the table" in working alongside predominantly older men, she's quick to emphasize how much of a team effort it is at the Granada: "A lot of what makes the Granada great is how collaborative it is," she says. "I feel like when people work alone, ideas don't bloom as much."
Outside of the recent Spice Girls party, Nguyen says she's proudest of events like the Serial listening parties that the Granada hosted last year on the roof of the Sundown at the Granada. It's an idea she says she and McDonald brainstormed together, but he gives her full credit for it. He also points to the soccer watching parties they hosted during the Champions League and Women's World Cup earlier this summer, where Nguyen even set up a partnership with FC Dallas, as another one of her ideas.
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"A lot of things I've seen about people in [Nguyen's] age group who try to get into this is they're afraid of looking stupid or afraid of messing up," McDonald says. "But she's not. She understands hard work. She understands it's one thing to have a great idea, to have fun, and it's another thing to see it all the way through."
Thanks to a mix of well-placed emojis and Drake references, McDonald believes that Nguyen's handling of the Granada's social media has been just as important as her event planning. "You can always tell when a company's social media is being fake and there's not really a person behind it," he says. "But she nails it." On one occasion, he remembers someone bringing Nguyen a Sonic slushy after a joke she'd made on Instagram. "Who does that?" he says with a laugh.
But connecting with fans and concertgoers (and encouraging them to unleash their inner Baby Spice) is the name of the game in the promotions world — a fact that's right in line with the "Love Yourself" banner hanging over the stage at the Granada.
"Whether we're promoting certain bands or with the Spice Girls or movies that we do predominantly for women, it's really inspiring when we're able to gather people of the same mentality and interests together," Nguyen says. "I like to think of it more like it's not anybody's space, but it's everybody's space. We're creating a very inclusive atmosphere where everybody's welcome."