I started drafting this on a bus and then started crying. That’s how I knew it was important for me to write. I dedicate this one to Jaz — a young and brilliant creator, activist and fellow Filipina who sent me a beautiful message about representation and inspired me to write. Hope you like!
Today, I am unemployed. Three days ago, I walked out of the Instagram offices for the last time. And I’m not gonna lie — I’m a little sad to be dropping out of the rat race, y’all.
Of course, it’s exciting and sexy and deliciously middle-finger-to-the-man to quit our jobs and travel indefinitely. It does feel like a bragging point to be like, “Y’all have fun with your 13-meeting work days! And abusive relationships with Outlook! And cramping while climbing the corporate ladder! WE OUT.”
However, here’s a detour for ya:
I have been in a lot of mostly-white spaces in my career.
At this point, I am very aware that alongside my skills and talents, my brown face existing in white spaces matters. A lot. Black and brown skin existing in any typically-not-black-or-brown setting matters to other black and brown-skinned people, young and old. That’s just math.
And I feel a little bit guilty leaving my career track and, in my tiny-impact way, leaving those mostly-white spaces with one less POC that someone else can look to and go, “Oh. Look at that. We can belong there.”
Raise your hand if you saw Hamilton.
Raise your other hand if it was hard to watch Hamilton because you were sobbing the literal entire time.
Yup. Now hug me with BOTH THEM OUTSTRETCHED ARMS.
The parts that made me cry hardest were when there were lots of folks onstage — like the final song, Who Lives Who Dies. The entire cast is standing there, belting out face up to the audience. And almost every one of those faces belonged to a person of color.
I sobbed because scenes like that did a very basic and profound thing to me. They shouted very clearly to the tiny 12-year-old in my soul — the one who gave up on budding Broadway dreams pretty early on because, what? Dark-skinned Asians onstage, onscreen, on anything, bish where?
It was like they were yelling right at me:
“Brown girl, look.
You belong on this stage, just like us.”
(Shit. I’m crying again.)
I’m writing this because representation — the simple ability to see, with your eyeballs, someone who looks like you in a physical space you hope to occupy — matters so fucking much. On any scale. It may be incredibly narcissistic to lay out my achievements like this, but before I hop out of the career world, if I can give anyone a fraction of how I felt seeing the brown-ass Hamilton cast onstage with my own eyeballs, then it matters.
Now, this is of course applicable to any POC and/or person in a minority or oppressed group.
But I’m talking specifically to the young Filipino and Asian women around the world who don’t see dark brown Asian skin in the places their soul wants to be.
Because when I was growing up, I wish someone talked to me this way.
This is for us.
Brown girl, you belong in journalism.
Brown girl, you belong in tech.
Brown girl, you belong in magazine bylines.
Brown girl, you belong in magazine features.
Brown girl, you belong next to political dignitaries.
Brown girl, you belong onstage.
Brown girl, you belong at the United Nations.
Brown girl, you belong on Team Debt Freeeeee.
You belong wherever the fuck.