22 March 2023

Paris journey: Refugee to Kylie Minogue lingerie designer to Griffith's pho queen

| Oliver Jacques
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Paris Floyd with an insert of Kylie Minogue

Paris Floyd has transformed from Kylie Minogue lingerie designer to homemade food queen. Photo: Oliver Jacques.

There’s always been a mystery about the woman who introduced Griffith to Vietnamese and Laotian food, selling and donating delicious spring rolls, bahn mi, pho and spicy curries made from home since early 2020. But the extraordinary life story of Paris Floyd has to be heard to be believed.

As the daughter of a CIA agent who escaped her wartorn country in the 1970s, she settled in Australia as a refugee, then became a lingerie designer for Kylie Minogue’s Love Kylie range before reinventing herself as a homemade food chef who also offers cooking classes and a soup detox diet program.

“It’s taken me a long time to own the answer to that question,” she said when asked to describe who she is. But her life story speaks for itself.

Ms Floyd was born in Laos in 1974, while her country was embroiled in the Vietnam War. Her father was an army officer who helped the CIA in their battle against the Viet Cong, during which time he was separated from his family for 10 years. Once the conflict ended, Paris’s mum trekked for a week to finally reunite with her husband, but received a rude shock when she reached him.

“She found out he had already married a second wife and had kids with her … my mum was really angry, she wanted to turn back … My dad used to complain, ‘It’s easier to control 500 soldiers than two wives’,” Ms Floyd said.

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When the Americans left Indochina, Paris’s dad became a target, so he fled to a refugee camp in Thailand with his two wives and 14 children. He wanted to emigrate to the US, but that country doesn’t recognise polygamy, meaning he had to choose only one wife and family to accompany him.

“He chose his second wife. That broke my mum’s heart. She migrated to Australia as a single mum with her six children, including me,” Ms Floyd said.

In an era when refugees were treated better than they are now, the Whitlam government provided the family with public housing in Sydney.

“Our treatment was perfect … we were always fed. If you don’t have much you don’t know what you’re missing.”

After her modest upbringing, Ms Floyd completed university and then secured a training position designing lingerie, an industry in which she would go on to work for 20 years.

“I fell in love with lingerie and business … I eventually got to work with Kylie Minogue on her Love Kylie range in Melbourne and for other brands … Kylie is as short as me but with beautiful curves in all the right places. She’s a gorgeous, sweet and down-to-earth person.”

Kylie Minogue in lingerie

Ms Floyd worked on Kylie Minogue’s Love Kylie brand. Photo: Supplied.

Ms Floyd’s fast-paced lifestyle saw her travel across Europe, the US and China to market her products, but a trip to Poland radically changed her view of her industry.

“I visited Auschwitz [a concentration camp] and saw tanks filled with women’s and children’s hair, which had been cut off to be used for textiles. I thought, ‘There’s so much wastage and I’m a contributor to this’.”

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Her jetsetting lifestyle was also harder to sustain after having two kids with her husband, Dr Tony Floyd. When he was transferred to Griffith Hospital for work, Ms Floyd seized the chance to put down roots and transform her life.

“I had to learn how to cook when I had kids … one day I decided to bake some cakes and cookies and went to the Rotary markets … next time I made laksa and it sold out within a couple of hours. I got home and had lots of noodle soup left and put it out to the community [for delivery/sale]. That night we couldn’t move from the kitchen, we had so many orders. That’s how [my cook-from-home business] started, organically.”

In a town with no Vietnamese restaurant, Ms Floyd’s meals became enormously popular. On her Facebook page, she advertises different dishes, which generally sell out quickly, and long queues outside her house are a regular sight. She also gives away food to mothers with sick children, women escaping domestic violence and to teachers, police and hospital staff.

“My creative side ensures that I texture the food with just the right ingredient to awaken the senses: sweet and sour, smooth and crunch combined with homemade chillies to sharpen the taste buds.

“I’m a healer of the mind, body, and soul … I nourish through my language of love, which is food.”

The full range of her products and services can be found on the Paris Floyd Facebook Page.

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