Nammi Le was born in Vietnam and at three months old, she, her parents and older brother left their homeland by boat. Her father had secretly converted a fishing boat to enable them to escape along with other family members and some local villagers. On the voyage, the tiny and leaky fishing boat was boarded by Thai pirates who confiscated all valuables from the passengers. Another valuable that one pirate tried to take away was Nammi’s older brother. After much pleading from Nammi’s mother to the pirates’ ‘captain’, the one year old boy was returned to his family. Eventually the boat completed its journey on a Malaysian beach, where locals helped the passengers burn the boat to ensure the coast guard could not tow them back out to sea. After several months in a detention camp, the whole family flew to Sydney where they have lived ever since.
At school, Nammi developed an interest in painting, but her principal focus was on academic subjects and she went on to study Commerce at the University of New South Wales. After graduating, she worked for PricewaterhouseCoopers for several years.
In 2007 she was offered a lead role in an independent Australian film, Ra Choi. The film centred on a group of four troubled street kids from the Western suburbs of Sydney, and their exploits in the midst of gang turf war, drug taking/dealing and prostitution. The film was shown at various festivals including the Sydney Film Festival and the London Australian Film Festival.
Shortly after, Nammi travelled to Europe and during this period resumed her earlier interest in painting. While there, she was cast by John Duigan in Careless Love. Nammi plays Linh, a university student who juggles her academic life with moonlighting as an escort to help pay off her parents’ mortgage. Linh believes she can keep these two worlds separate, but her ability to compartmentalise her life is further strained by a relationship with a fellow student and her dealings with a mysterious client who becomes a confidante. One of her self-portraits is used as a key prop in the film.