I grew up in a small Catholic school where 99% of the students (and staff) at my school were white. I loved the Olsen twins, Christina Aguilera, Britney Spears and Celine Dion. I had Barbies, I had Samantha, the rich American Girl Doll* and I would pinch my nose like Amy in Little Women.
The Internet wasn’t what it is today and I didn’t watch much tv until junior high so I didn’t see anyone famous that looked like me until 2001. I was fourteen, going off to a completely new high school and trying to figure out who I was.
When I started watching The Real World: Back To New York, I was probably breaking a rule. I’m sure my mom didn’t want me watching The Real World. But Lori was on that season and Lori was half-Filipino. Beyond my own siblings (or my cousins), I had never seen anyone else that was half-Filipino. I also had never watched reality tv so this was obviously a magical moment for me.
I’m not saying that anything that Lori did on The Real World impacted or inspired me. Gosh, I wish. Wouldn’t that be an amazing story? But representation is important. I might not have my life completely figured out but I try to be visible to others for that very reason. If you look different than the average Barbie, I encourage you to show up and contribute to art, media, politics and more.
Maybe someone out there needs to see that you can be a half-Filipino woman and do what you want, own your own business, have a voice. Just like Lori did for me. See? MTV is out there doing the most. More on my love affair with reality tv later…
* I hope you’ve seen the American Girl Doll bracket
Yes. YES. Even here in the Philippines, it’s so hard to represent Filipino Women as strong and independent sometimes, because of misogyny, discrimination, and gender stereotypes. It’s even harder to represent Filipino women who belong to indigenous tribes here, when the society is after a Western standarf of beauty and achievement. It means so muh to me whenever I see a Filipino woman represented in media out there, especially when they’re portrayed as strong and independent.