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Inside the Carry-On: Jeannie Mai

Host of FOX’s The Real and fashion guru talks her latest inspiring venture and answers all of our travel questions

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Jeannie Mai is a seasoned traveler and basically bicoastal. “My family is from California and I did the amazing, ambitious move of marrying a man that’s from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania,” Mai explained. The TV personality, fashion star, social entrepreneur and as of late, producer, has without question racked up her mile rewards. The nonstop co-host on FOX’s Emmy-nominated daytime talk show, The Real, has a character that effortlessly reflects the namesake of her show, and on the tail of a New Year Mai is heading into 2017 with a seriously hefty itinerary.

Her first undertaking is “Bought, Sold and Returned,” a feature-length documentary filmed in Vietnam, shedding light on human trafficking. 

Mai produced the documentary in hopes that it could bring even more attention to a cause that has been near to her heart for quite some time. “I think everybody has a voice,” Mai explained, “and I’m really blessed that mine, through my career, allows me to translate my message– I don’t take it for granted that I’m on a national television show, that I’m in everybody’s homes every single day.” The film follows multiple Vietnamese girls who had been taken from their homes and highlights their miraculous journeys back home, where they face struggles like reclaiming their futures in the wake of tragedy and even the potential of having to face family members instrumental to their trafficking. Mai also invited her mother along for the project. As a self-proclaimed FOB, or “fresh off the boat,” having immigrant parents makes Mai not only keen to the many worlds around her but also extremely vigilant in the one she’s living in now.

Vietnam is the source of Mai’s family roots, but it’s also simply her favorite destination. “It’s so real, raw and rich, with some of the nicest people you’ve ever met,” Mai says. “Vietnam is so tender and beautiful. From the countryside to the city of Saigon, it really is a magical place. And I dare anyone to battle me when it comes to Vietnamese food.”

But in terms of getting there, it’s no different than the realest thing about Mai’s experience with travel. “No matter how many officers are at TSA or how many times you travel,” Mai exclaimed, “People still don’t know how to unpack their shit and get it through that security belt fast enough for us all to make our flights in time!” She continued, “Where are we at this point in life where you still don’t know you can’t bring that water bottle on, ma’am?” If you’re running through the airport and happen to make it past security fast enough to see Mai, she’ll most likely be in pajamas, or at least a look she’d call pajamas when most might call it an ensemble. “It’s all about breaking it up and making it pop with a good shoe,” she explained. Although no ensemble is quite finished without her ultimate must-have, the Musik One Bluetooth headphones. Literally, as she put it, they’re her “hands down favorite.”