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