While I'm not usually one for beauty contests, there's just something so wholesome and sweet about the annual search for the Gerber Baby. Seeing so many proud parents post photos of their adorable little one warms my cold, black heart. And now, Gerber's 2019 Spokesbaby Kairi Yang is making history as the brand's first baby of Hmong descent. Along with being quite possibly one of the cutest babies I've ever seen, little Kairi marks a serious win in the diversity representation category.
Kairi is a 15-month-old little girl from Hickory, North Carolina, according to TODAY, and her little face was chosen to represent Gerber this year over more than 544,000 other contestants ranging in age from newborns to 4-year-olds.
If you're wondering where Kairi gets her unique first name, the Gerber Spokesbaby’s official website explained that she is named after a character from the popular video game Kingdom Hearts. And like most babies her age, she enjoys building forts, playing hide-and-seek, and chowing down on snacks — like chicken nuggets, Gerber Lil' Crunchies, Arrowroot cookies and Puffs, according to People.
It's easy to see why Kairi would snag the coveted Gerber baby title. Her big eyes are full of the light and wonder that most attribute to childhood. But Bill Partyka, President and CEO of Gerber explained in a press release that “as soon as we saw her photo, we fell in love with Kairi’s expressive eyes and angelic face, looking toward the future and being excited for all that it holds."
Partyka went on to explain in the press release that last year's Gerber baby is passing the baton on to Yang:
We believe that every baby is a Gerber baby, and this year, are thrilled to recognize Kairi as the new face of Gerber. It’s been an incredible year celebrating our 2018 Spokesbaby Lucas Warren and his family, and we are excited to see the world fall in love all over again with our newest Spokesbaby.
Kairi's parents Ying Vue and Peter Yang were shocked to learn that their little girl had won. Once the initial shock wore off, they were quick to celebrate with their extended family — aunts, uncles, grandparents, and cousins — all of whom live together in their North Carolina home. Vue told TODAY that these bonds are what make their family who they are. “Hmong in our eyes is all about the close bonds we have with our relatives during life and afterlife,” she said.
The Hmong people — which is pronounced "mung" in English — come primarily from China and Southeast Asia, according to Encyclopedia Britannica. They have their own distinct language and more than 170,000 Hmong currently live in the United States. Now, they are represented on a massive scale.
Vue told TODAY that Kairi's Hmong heritage is an integral part of her upbringing. "Being surrounded by all her family has been a very positive influence on Kairi’s life, especially when it comes to preserving our culture and tradition," Vue said. "Kairi will grow up knowing how to read and write in Hmong, so that she can speak with her grandparents."
As the 2019 Gerber Spokesbaby, Kairi and her family will receive $50,000 in winnings and regular social media spotlights throughout the coming year. And despite the value of her award, Vue told TODAY that Kairi is the true prize. “Kairi’s positive energy and smile lights up our life,” she said. “She has a one-of-a-kind personality.”
The energy and personality will serve Kairi well as she enjoys her coming fame. And I, for one, can't wait to see more of her sweet, smiling face.