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St. Paul native makes history as first Hmong male news anchor in America

KARE 11's Gia Vang helped surprise Chenue Her on his first day on anchor desk in Des Moines, Iowa.

MINNEAPOLIS — Editor's Note: The video above originally aired on WOI-TV in Des Moines, Iowa on Oct. 4, 2021.

History was made this week just a few hours south of Minneapolis.

In Des Moines, Iowa, Chenue Her, a St. Paul native, became the first Hmong male news anchor in the country.

KARE 11's Gia Vang, the first Hmong news anchor in the Twin Cities, helped surprise her friend and fellow journalist on his first day at WOI-TV Local 5 News. 

Back on Oct. 4, Her made his debut on the anchor desk with his "Good Morning Iowa" co-anchors. During the show, Her was surprised with a pre-recorded message from Vang, who he's known for several years.

"I am thrilled for your new adventure back in the Midwest, just a short drive from your hometown here in the Twin Cities. Over the years I have watched you grow and thrive in this industry, and I felt your support being two of the very few TV news journalists who are Hmong," Vang said. "Now you're making history as the first Hmong male news anchor in the country. Haib kawg nkaus."

Haib kawg nkaus, which translates to "really amazing job," is a Hmong saying used to celebrate amazing achievements.

Back on camera, Her laughed and told viewers "I'll try not to cry."

"She's a big reason why I was able to find my footing in this industry. She's been a big part of my journey and someone I've looked up to for so long," Her said of Vang. "I'm kind of speechless right now that you guys pulled this off."

Friday morning, CBS Mornings shared a portion of the exchange between Vang and Her. In the clip, which has been viewed thousands of times, CBS correspondent Vladimir Duthiers said the moment "speaks to how underrepresented people need to be seen and to have people see them."

In response to the CBS feature, Her tweeted, "I swear I’m still dreaming. Someone pinch me."

"To think they felt my story, a Hmong kid from St. Paul, MN, was worth this platform really is surreal to me. Des Moines, thank u for embracing me & for supporting @weareiowa5news."

Vang says she and the team at Good Morning Iowa didn't expect their on-air surprise to get such a widespread response online. "We just thought it would be special to do for him," she said. "But I think the reaction it's getting speaks to how representation truly does matter to not just the community, but the country. Dream even if you're a Hmong kid from St. Paul or a Hmong kid from south Sacramento."

Her, a son of Hmong refugees, came to Des Moines from WXIA in Atlanta, where he worked as a reporter.

KARE 11, WOI and WXIA are all owned by TEGNA.