I didn't watch the Oscars this year because I forgot they were on. This wasn't always the case. When I was a little girl, I used to stay up late and watch the entirety of the show. I would feel butterflies in my stomach as each award winner presented their 15- to 20-second speech, filled with thanks and tears. I grew up longing for the opportunity to share a story of my own with the world (one of my stories might even get me an award one day). But as I got older and started to try to use my voice to influence my art, I was shut down left and right. I do not think it was intentional. I think it was due to me being the unknown. I also know that when a person of color speaks up, it has always been met with an attempt to silence them.
History has already taught us that this is a way of life. Marginalized people are taught this at an early age. I write a lot about being a woman of color because I only just recently realized that my heritage is what makes me beautiful, powerful, and who I am today.
As a teenager, I wanted so badly to be "white." I wanted to be the pretty girl who would be invited to the group and know how to communicate with everyone there. I really wanted to be heard and seen. I wanted to be in a place that I wasn't fighting to be a part of.
When I entered an acting conservatory at 18, I was immediately faced with backhanded racism and prejudice, but I didn't know it at first. It snuck up on me because I had normalized it, and before I knew it, I actually believed the things that were being told to me. Things like, "You don't look like a lead" or "You aren't a Reese Witherspoon" (which always made me laugh because I knew I wasn't blonde).
But the statement "You aren't a lead" stuck with me. Why wasn't I a lead? I mean, I'm the lead in my own life. Why does that change with the stories being told? Why can't I find my story being told?
When I watched Frances McDormand's speech, I cried like a baby. I felt like what she said was directed specifically at me.
In classes, we used to be asked questions like, "What celebrities do you look like?" The purpose of this was to give us a guide on how to model ourselves in the industry. Nobody could ever name anyone I looked like. I thought that was a good sign because it meant I was original. Soon it became very clear to me that it actually was not a positive. It meant that there was nowhere for me in the puzzle.
It has taken me years to find my voice. I began writing and having a point of view of my world that I lived in. I started to stick by it. I finally loved myself, which was a great feeling!
So when I saw the hashtag #inclusionrider trending on Twitter and I watched Frances McDormand's speech, I cried like a baby. I cried because something inside me erupted. I felt like what she said was directed specifically at me and the beautiful WOC and POC that I know and cherish in my everyday life. The artists and storytellers who inspire me. The people who represent me and represent one another.
I am very hopeful for the future and the inclusive true representation of POC and WOC. I am hopeful because I know how many stories NEED to be told, and I can't wait to see and hear them! I also can't wait for you to as well.