When I was younger I had an impossible Christmas wish: to become white.
Growing up I saw all heroines share one common denominator — their whiteness. Anyone with my light brown skin was either the sidekick, the lunch lady, the cleaning lady or none existent. But I did not want to be any of those roles. I wanted to be the hero, even if it was for a moment.
So began my desperate desire to change every single part that focused on my lack of European whiteness. I just wanted to fit in and have some resemblance to the daily media in my life.
I wanted to be Barbie, Kim Possible, Belle, Ariel, Nancy Drew, Hermione. But when I stood in front of the mirror, dressed up as any of my heroines my brain would immediately say: you’re too dark, you could never be like her.
And I know I am not alone.
Recently, Kelly Marie Tran, known for her role as Rose Tico in the latest Star Wars movie, wrote an article for the New York Times. There she said, “I want to live in a world where children of color don’t spend their entire adolescence wishing to be white.”
It struck me. In the same way we fall asleep — slowly and then all at once. This is why diversity matters. This is why representation matters. This is why we need change.
It was in 2016, at age 21, when I officially began to embrace myself. My brown skin, my curly hair, and my round nose. Because I saw myself in Moana. A Disney princess with brown skin, curly hair, and a round nose. A heroine that looked like me. And that was just the beginning. Soon I found myself feeling normal as I watched Netflix’s One Day at a Time — a Cuban American family living through normal Hispanic situations.
I no longer felt like an outsider.
Change is happening, like a trickling river. The mainstream media is diversifying and showing minorities in roles usually reserved for whites.
The New York Times Bestseller List has books written by people of color with characters of colors. Heroes to stories, main characters to cheesy romantic novels, powerful wizards, world changers.
Publishing companies such as Disney-Hyperion have created imprints like Rick Riordan Presents to continue the push of diverse characters in stories of magic, science, and life.
Marvel’s vice president of sales once said that diversity doesn’t’ sell. Blaming the decrease of comic-book sales on recent efforts to increase diversity in the Marvel universe.
And yet Black Panther, a Marvel with a majority black cast, made $1.344 billion in the box office. A young adult novel, “Children of Blood and Bone” by Tomi Adeyemi secured a multimillion-dollar publishing and movie deal for her story set in a fantasy fictional West African land based on African folklore. Her debut novel has been on the New York Times Best Seller List for 24 for weeks — right below “The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas (77 weeks on the list) which also stars a black heroine.
Crazy Rich Asians, a romcom multimillion dollar full Asian cast film, took $25.2 million in North American cinemas on its opening weekend. Proving that diversity sells. And to think, Hollywood wanted to whitewash the female lead.
It’s just a trickle, but it will become into a coursing river. People of color will share the stage; in movies, tv shows, theater, books, magazine covers. It’s coming, I only wished it was here for 12-year-old me.
Just like Tran, I wish to live in a world where children do not wish to be white. Slowly but surely, we are getting there. And maybe one day the diversity tag will disappear and it’ll become the new normal.