I will always remember the bright Florida day that my best friend and I decided to spread out a blanket to hang out and read our new teeny-bopper magazines. We were still middle school preteens, and we especially loved the quizzes that would answer our burning questions about grown-up things like crushes and makeup.
Now, I don’t remember whether or not my crush was predicted to ask me to the dance, but I do remember one question. “Which celebrity do you most look like?”
My friend was a dead ringer for Full House’s adorable DJ Tanner, but I was at a complete loss. Trying to be helpful, my friend suggested, “Christina Ricci, maybe?” True, Christina and I shared the same first name, and her hair was brown, but the comparisons definitely stopped there.
The crazy thing is, Christina Ricci might have been the closest thing to a celebrity look-alike that I had back then.
I was a frizzy-haired girl mixed with my mom’s Mediterranean dark waves and my dad’s Filipino/Mexican brown skin. If I could have come up with a single young Latina or Pacific Island-looking actress, they would have been a passable response. But not a one came to mind.
Obviously, I understand that a teenage magazine quiz is not to be taken seriously. However, this simple question resulted in one of my earliest memories of feeling inadequate due to lack of representation.
Conscious or not, I knew that our culture celebrated light-skinned girls on TV. After all, they were the ones that were most often depicted as living in nice two-parent homes, being popular in school, and getting the boy.
At an impressionable age when self-worth is so fragile, this was just another obstacle blocking the view of potential. After all, representation matters.
Fortunately, we are gradually progressing as a society. From Disney to politics, women of color are appearing in leading roles more and more. And, because of this, fewer and fewer girls will have feelings of inferiority because of who they see in the mirror.
So today, on this International Women’s Day, let’s take a moment to celebrate the women breaking through society’s outdated racial barriers. Their perseverance will certainly have a positive effect for generations to come.