Living #WalangHiya with Brown Courage // Tapaang Ang Loob Ko

[Before you read this post, I highly recommend that you watch the video first.]

I gave this presentation  last year during a TED talk-like event at my school. I was in graduate school working to obtain a Masters in Mental Health counseling. This presentation was a first step for me in living, claiming and embracing #WalangHiya. As a Filipina, it takes a lot of courage for me to speak my truths into the world even about something that seems simple like makeup.

Growing up, my parents did not allow me to wear makeup. I grew up an only girl with two brothers — very much a tomboy who wore t-shirts and jeans, played sports, and did not like pink nor wear dresses. I felt like I did not fill any of my gender role requirements. As other girls started to wear makeup, I started to feel like I was missing out. I thought wearing makeup was a requirement to be a girl. When I was in college, I experimented with makeup. I discovered that I enjoyed using the art of enhancing a person’s natural features, to create a feeling of “wow” on their faces. Helping others realize their own beauty gives me joy.  Over time, however, I’ve discovered the difficulty of being Brown and loving makeup.

During graduate school, a supervisor of mine asked me through a workshop activity, “When did you realize you were a racial being?” The intent was to help us realize how we had been racialized in our lives. I couldn’t pinpoint an exact moment. Growing up in predominantly White spaces, I was treated differently so I always knew I was different. I also grew up in the Southwest where I was often profiled as Latina or Native. Then, when I went to the East Coast for college, I constantly felt a  pressure to prove my “Asianness” to feel included in the Asian community.

During my undergraduate years, I began to find words to describe what I had experienced through my classes and events. As a result, I better understood how the systems around me affected my life experiences.

Then came graduate school. My professors normalized talking about race, ethnicity, color, class, etc. in spaces beyond “Diversity Day.” I learned about cultural competency — how to understand how someone’s identities and the systems they lived in impacted their lives and the symptoms they were experiencing. Over time, I realized I had a voice and an expertise about the issue of race in relation to mental health. My friends and I often discussed how what we were learning was different for the [insert marginalized identity] experience.

My growing understanding of my Brownness and my love for makeup came together in Dr. Leigh Patel’s (this woman is amazing) Critical Race Theory and Intersectionality class. From her, I learned how modern racial inequalities are based on Settler Colonialism and the ways they manifest in the United States and in our economy. For my final project, I had an epiphany on how makeup perpetuates colorism and this presentation was born.

I knew it was a nuanced topic. No one who looked like me talked about it. My darker skinned Asian friends and I often had conversations about the difficulty of finding a Youtube guru to follow because most women who shared our ethnicities were paler than us. The presentation was the first time I felt like I had brought something new to the table to help people be more aware of the nuanced and subservice racism that occurs in our society.

I mustered up my courage and presented this presentation to the larger school community (I was so nervous the day of). This presentation felt like a piece of me, as if I was presenting myself in hopes of being accepted. It took a lot of courage. It took even more courage for me to post the video on my Facebook page. It’s taking me more courage to write about it again in longer form and present where I’m at here.

After the presentation, many of my friends shared the video and dialogued about how important the issue was. I’ve watched as my presentation has slowly created dialogue between my friends and audience members. One of my current students told me that they’ve become more aware of the meaning behind their makeup names. I’m watching as this growing consciousness is empowering people around me to not  internalize the negative messages that the makeup industry feeds them.

Like I said before, this presentation became the start of my path of living #WalangHiya. Although these changes may be small, mindsets are still changing.  Each time I share a part of my story, it takes me a lot of courage. Note, living #WalangHiya is a process; I do not embrace or live it every day. This is my journey, to learn to build my courage so that I can more frequently speak these truths. Seeing the change of mindset on people’s faces gives me fulfillment. I taught people the day I presented. I teach someone new each time my video is played.

This post is part of the Reclaiming #WalangHiya Project; see the landing page for more narratives.

Erlinda DLC
(she, her, hers) operates and maneuvers within the world with her Filipina American identity. She is a first generation-born Filipina American. She was raised in the Southwest and higher education in the east coast. She is working in the east coast empowering students to become the best version of themselves, by helping them to celebrate and vocalize their pride in their different identities. She balances her days of working with students and working within the Filipinx community with TV or exploring new makeup trends.
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