My Health Reflexology and Massage Spa Plants its Feet Firmly in La Verne

April 26, 2010
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Michelle and her partners Connie and Casina are the owners of My Health Reflexolgy and Spa.

Michelle Bui is the owner of My Health Reflexolgy and Spa.


It takes a lot to open a business, and we should especially admire those business owners who have had to surmount some unbelievable and overwhelming obstacles to be successful. My Health Reflexology & Massage Spa, which just opened in La Verne, might be the poster child for overcoming overwhelming odds and starting a successful enterprise.

Amid a hail of gunfire, Michelle Bui, pincipal owner of the Spa, fled communist Vietnam in 1982 with two of her brothers while the other six members of her family, including her mom and dad, were caught, arrested and imprisoned for a year. At sea, the ship was adrift for 12 days in stormy seas when the engines quit. She was only 10 at the time before the ship finally docked in Malaysia.

My Health is located in the old Vons shopping center.

My Health is located in the old Vons shopping center.

“Have you seen the movie ‘Castaway,’” Michelle asked. “The sea was exactly the same. A lot of people died. Her parents did not know whether she had survived the daring ocean escape.

After their harrowing ordeal, she and her brothers, then ages 12 and 14, stayed in a Malaysian refugee camp.

“We were unaccompanied minors, so no one wanted us,” said Michelle, now 37, though she looks much younger because of her petite size and easy, welcoming smile. “The United States did not want kids unless they were the children of government officials. Australia only wanted families and Canada only wanted single, young people who could go there and work.”

Despite being uprooted and feeling unwanted, the three children worked hard in school during the day and sought to learn English and French at night.

“We went on our own,” Michelle.

In fact, Michelle said many kids their same age were troublemakers, according to Michelle. “A lot of the kids just played. No one forces you to go to school. The beach is there; you can go all day long and do whatever you want.”

Word got out around camp about the industrious, hard-working youngsters, and they learned they were to be sent to France, where there were many orphanages for Vietnamese children. “The only country that wanted us was France,” Michelle said.

Heading to the U.S.A.

Then just when they thought they were heading to France, they were nominated for a special program supported by Nancy Reagan, President Ronald Reagan’s wife. A U.S. resettlement delegation interviewed them.

“It was just like a job interview,” Michelle recalled. “They asked, ‘Where do you see yourself in 10 years?’” Michelle replied that she wanted to be a nurse. One brother said “doctor,” the other said “engineer.”

The interviewer told them people had been saying good things about them, and that “they better thank Nancy Reagan for this.”

Two years after their odyssey began, they finally arrived safely in the United States. Catholic Charities helped match them with a Vietnamese man who was the only one in his family to escape.

“He had two boys and a daughter, exactly like us,” Michelle said, “but when he left, he had to leave them and his wife behind.”

Despite struggling to overcome the language barrier, Michelle earned a full scholarship to the University of California. She eventually changed her major from biology to psychology and gravitated toward social work, a field for which her personal experience had certainly prepared her. Her brothers were just as industrious because they knew that to sponsor their parents and bring them to the United States, it would cost money.

“You need $10,000 in the bank for each person sponsored,” Michelle explained. In 1998, the three children finally had save enough to bring their parents to the United States.

Coming up short

The meeting at the airport didn’t go quite as planned, however. Moms will still be moms. Upon seeing Michelle, her mom couldn’t believe how tiny her daughter still was.

“I can’t believe you’ve haven’t grown,” Michelle’s mom told her, not having seen her daughter since Michell was 10. “I thought everybody grows when they go to America.”

But Michelle grew in other more meaningful ways. In addition to obtaining her bachelor’s degree and landing a job as a social worker in Orange County, she is now pursuing a master’s in health psychology.

Before she could open My Health Reflexology & Massage Spa, she had to find a suitable location, including a city that could see past the “massage” stigma. Michelle had many friends who attended the University of La Verne, so when a space opened in the old Vons Shopping Center, they seized it. Still, it took almost a year to open, and several letters and face-to-face meetings with the appropriate officials and city planners to convince them that their business would indeed be a legitimate, health-oriented establishment promoting massage and reflexology as a means to “renew, refresh, relieve, release, relax and rejuvenate” the body.massage

Although just open a short while, My Health has already become well known for its reflexology sessions. A popular alternative therapy, reflexology using acupressure points (not needles) to relieve pain and stiffness, to prevent and cure many symptoms such as headache, stress, asthma, constipation, sinusitis and migraine, and to boost blood circulation. Guests can request a foot reflexology session, focused on the feet, or a signature reflexology session that concentrates on eight different areas of the body: head, neck, shoulders, back, arms, hands, legs and feet. Currently as an opening store promotion, a foot reflexology session is only $26 for one hour. Full body massages are $47 an hour. 

My Health also offers Swedish, deep tissue and therapeutic acupressure massages. To learn more about My Health’s variety of traditional therapeutic massages, visit their website at

When Michelle (whose Vietnamese name is My –pronounced “me”) was searching for an appropriate website, the domain name “My Health” was already taken. So Michelle attached USA1 to the site.

“In Vietnamese, ‘My’ means ‘beautiful,’ and ‘beautiful’ means the ‘United States of America,’” said Michelle, who Americanized her name from My to Michelle so there would be no confusion in pronouncing her name. “When my mother was pregnant with me, she was sick. There was this American who donated blood, and he promised to continue donating blood until she was better. So, when I was born, my mother named me ‘My’ after America.

“Now I attach ‘USA’ to everything,” Michelle said.

Michelle has come a long way to be in La Verne. Her story is indeed “beautiful,”  with many benefits for the local community seeking a healthier and more stress free lifestyle.

My Health Reflexology and Health Spa is located at 1451 Foothill Blvd. in La Verne at the corner of Wheeler and Foothill, near the CVS Pharmacy. For more information or to make an appointment, call (909) 392-9218.

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