Who: Michelle Ortiz Nieves
Where: Puerto Rico
Words: I like to think that I was a very fortunate child in the way I was raised. I grew up embracing and being proud of my culture and skin color. As a Puerto Rican, you are taught since grade school that what makes us who we are is the mixture of races – African, Taíno, and Spaniard. I was always surrounded by an array of skin tones and features, not one nearly alike to the other.
I remember being in my third grade history class and being ecstatic over the possibility of having prominent Taíno features, and being proud about being able to perform one of our native dances that is heavily influenced by our African roots.
Unfortunately, all the pride and years of being taught how unique we were couldn’t have prepared me to be part of a world where diversity is not the norm.
When I started getting into mainstream media, which was and still is prominently white, I was more or less confused. I couldn’t understand why everyone looked the same when there was so much more to the world.
We tie color to ethnicity and race, when that is not at all the case. I always like to use my own country as an example; no Puerto Rican has the same skin tone or features, neither do Latins as a whole.
So why is it that beauty is tied to one very specific look?
For years I have seen friends, family, and even myself, trying to change how I look to fit that mould, forgetting the pride I once felt for my ancestors. You get so wrapped up in trends and trying to fit in, that you ignore what is truly important.
I don’t think you can buy beauty, or that only one skin color is beautiful. I think being genuine is what matters. That doesn’t mean makeup is a horrible weapon no one should use; hell makeup is one of the greatest, most fun things in the world, but that’s not what I’m talking about here. Let’s embrace those things others consider ugly, they seem to always end up trendy somehow anyway.
The world still sucks and there is so much more to do to make it better, but I’m glad that slowly but surely we are being more inclusive and representing many cultures through mainstream media. Little kids that feel like they need to change themselves to gain acceptance, get to see their culture represented through Disney movies, toys, models, and YouTubers. Along with them, we are being reminded that we need to be proud of who we are and where we come from, even if it’s not the norm…
…because who wants a world were everyone is the same?