Mai Khoi / Photo by Piper Creative
Exiled dissident artist Mai Khoi (born Đỗ Nguyễn Mai Khôi) has been called the "Lady Gaga of Vietnam" and compared to Russian activist-band Pussy Riot.
She was a pop star in Vietnam, winning Vietnam Television's 2010 Album of the Year with the song "Vietnam" on her first produced album. At that time she began modest advocacy for women's and LGBT+ rights in her country, and she began to draw criticism with her vocal choice not to have children, as well as for her expressive outfits and songs.
At a certain point, she began pushing back against creative censorship in Vietnam and attempted to increase the reach of her activism by participating in national politics. The government responded rapidly by prohibiting her performances in the country. She met with then-U.S. President Barack Obama to ask for help in promoting freedom in Vietnam, but she was deeply disappointed by his inaction on that front.
Mai Khoi and the Dissidents / Photo by Dinh Dzu
Mai Khoi in front of the Faces exhibit
Photo by Greg Victor
Later, she created a new, underground band called "Mai Khoi and the Dissidents" and then moved to Pittsburgh on an Artist Protection Fund grant through the Scholars at Risk program of the University of Pittsburgh. The International Free Expression Project co-sponsored her along with City of Asylum, and we are honored to have her serve on our International Advisory Board, along with names such as Martin Baron and Svetlana Alexievich. In 2018 Mai Khoi was awarded the Vaclav Havel International Prize for Creative Dissent.
Mai Khoi is currently working on her latest piece, “Bad Activist: the Stage Show.” The next performance will take place on September 15, 2022 at the Pittsburgh Playhouse. It is being hosted by the International Free Expression Project and Point Park University's Center for Media Innovation.