Born among four children to Cambodian refugees, KTLA 5 Kimberly Cheng’s family story embodies the American Dream.
“My dad had heard about Los Angeles in Cambodia, he knew this was the land of opportunity and dreams,” Kimberly explained. “He said, ‘I want to go to L.A.!'”
Her parents arrived in L.A. in 1980 and worked odd jobs until they were able to save up enough money to open up their own donut shop. Daily Donuts was located in Hollywood on Santa Monica Boulevard and Vermont Avenue.
“It was a really proud moment for the family,” Kimberly explained. “After school I would end up there, we had a little cot set up in the back. They didn’t have babysitters, so I would just pretty much spend all of my time in the back of the donut shop.”
However, things took a turn during the riots in the early 1990s.
In a rare move, her parents closed the shop. Her family was glued to the television as they watched how things escalated. At one point, they saw people gathered in front of the shop and moments later it was up in flames.
“Everything that my parents had worked so hard for had burned down,” she explained. “There was a lot of uncertainty. So at first, I remember my mom saying, ‘we have to go look at even smaller apartments in different parts of town that we can afford because we don’t know what this is going to look like.'”
Kimberly credits her parents’ resilience and strength to push forward for getting through that tough time.
“They always had that spirit of ‘we’re going to get through this, and we’re going to find a way,'” she said. “So, they rebuilt the donut shop from scratch again, and it was better than ever.”
Education was a huge priority for Kimberly’s dad, as he wanted a better life for her and her siblings. Today, all of them have college degrees, with Kimberly’s sister just earning her master’s degree last week.
“He is really proud,” she explained. “He has a wall of all of our diplomas at his house.”
Kimberly’s education may have taken her far, but her parents’ lessons have taken her further.
“I think that what my childhood taught me, is that we’re all more resilient than we realize, and I think that struggles make you stronger,” she said proudly. “I really think you can get through anything, that’s what my family has shown me. They survived the genocide and millions of people died, and they came here without any money they didn’t speak any English, but they were able to achieve the American Dream.”
Growing up in Hollywood, Kimberly has fond memories of the Griffith Observatory, since that’s where her family took guests to show off the famous Hollywood sign.
Her parents have since sold the donut shop when they retired and are avid KTLA viewers.
KTLA’s My Very Own Story series airs Thursdays at 8 a.m., 12 p.m., and 5 p.m.
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