Cuc (Cook) Mauldin is my name. I grew up in Vietnam, where a career in art is considered as a poor choice to make a living. I put my love of art aside, and after graduating high school in 2007, I went to France to study tourism. At that time, I just wanted to devote my love to the French language, les fromages, and les vins. Also, I desired to see and discover the world by visiting the La Tour Eiffel in the flesh. It was an amazing two years of living in France, and I adapted to the French culture. J'aime bien la vie en France!
In 2010, I went to the U.S. to study nursing. I was convinced by others to pursue this path, but I felt I could not be happy studying nursing and being a nurse for the rest of my life. In the meantime, my arts and crafts passion kept burning inside of me. I finally decided to be the black sheep in the family by choosing Graphic Communication at Tarrant County College (TCC). I really wanted to see if I would be happy doing what I love to do.
As my GPA continued to rise, I earned a full scholarship to Texas Christian University as a Strategic Communication (“STCO”) major. When comparing STCO to the Graphic Design major, I chose the former because of the teachers. My STCO teachers became my family in the United States, and at this point, it had been about 4 or 5 years since I saw family, so having a support group again felt wonderful. I didn’t feel alone anymore. The time spent being mentored by the teachers in the STCO program will be a cherished memory forever, and I really feel my experience at Texas Christian University shaped the woman I am more than any other four years in my life. In 2017, I graduated with Cum Laude honors and began my work as a professional graphic designer.
It has not been a smooth road...
Like they say success is like an iceberg. You'll know that only a small fraction of an iceberg is visible above the water line, whereas the larger part of an iceberg is hidden beneath the water. Struggle is something that makes me stronger. Every day I seek improvement. I always try to exceed expectations, because whether people mean to or not, many people I meet have racial prejudices.
I’ve felt that some people do not take my skills seriously when English is not my native language. Some racial stereotypes persist even today, and when I share that my cultural background is Vietnamese, I can expect the common “nail salon”-themed joke soon after. I have nothing against people who work in a nail salon, but it has nothing to do with me. I have worked hard and my family has made so many sacrifices to give me the opportunity to be a successful woman. I really am insulted when all of my effort is laughed away and all people are curious about is whether I can paint their toenails.
When I first came to the United States, I found this kind of humor hurtful, and I felt alienated in a country where my history can be a punchline. Sometimes I would cry at night, but the next day, I would always strive to perform at such a high level so that effort would become the topic of conversation, not the country where I was born. In the past, I resented the struggle of feeling alone in a foreign country, but really it was a powerful crucible. I am a stronger woman today because of my resilience I developed.