Growing up, I didn’t have the luxury of seeing a reflection of my story and my experience in the media that was available to me.
I remember as a teenager, I would often put pictures up on my bedroom wall of people I admired- women like Lauryn Hill (remember her in Sister Act 2?!), Brandy and Liv Tyler (because I was freakishly tall for a Pinay and they made tall look good). But one day, I realized that none of the people I cut out from my magazines looked remotely like me.
It was the same in the books that I read, and the TV shows I watched- there was no identifiable place for me to find a reflection of myself and my story. Because I didn’t find easily accessible role models that shared my experience, I didn’t understand the fullness of my own possibility of how far I can actually go in my life.
After all, if you can’t see it, you can’t be it.
As an immigrant daughter, I somehow internalized this, resulting in an inferiority complex that led to a long journey of me battling with my self-esteem and fighting for my self-worth. (Proud and happy to say that I’ve since won the battle.)
Fast forward a few years later, and I find myself leading a Girls Group in West Harlem, where I had the privilege of mentoring a brilliant group of young women. One afternoon, while waiting for them to arrive, I came across a copy of Essence magazine that published a poignant letter from Michelle Obama addressed to young black women. In her letter, she addressed her own challenges of rising to her potential as a black woman in America, and offered her advice on how to overcome adversity.
The letter touched me. But as much as it left me inspired, it saddened at the same time.
Because my immediate thought after reading it was, “But who was writing these letters for girls who grew up like me?”
And so throughout my career as a writer, performer, public speaker, and TV host, my mission has always been clear: to create a platform that empowered people, especially women, to find their voice, and, as Gina Rodriguez so eloquently put, “to represent a culture who want to see themselves as heroes”.
I still have a way to go. But though my platform is small (for now), the intention behind it is mighty. Because I am clear about my voice and the purpose I intend for it to represent.
All of that being said, to serve my mission, I got over my initial insecurities and got the courage to launch my own web series, with the intention of helping women rise and shine to their best selves.
Consider them as my love letters to every girl who grew up like me.
I hope you find them useful. And please do share your feedback and/or ideas of future episodes! I'd love to hear from you.