Mindy Kaling makes me happy, Mindy Kaling is brown like me. She is smart, savvy and hilarious. She never puts aside the female gaze on her show The Mindy Project, which I love. I don’t watch the Super Bowl. Nor do I watch commercials, but thanks to social media, I saw the ad Mindy stars in about feeling invisible. There is something so amazing about how very radical this commercial truly is. A Brown South Asian American woman had the attention of most of the country and she outed WOC Invisibility.
Whatever the stated intention of the ad, it speaks volumes to the erasure of women of color in (US) American society. It is REAL. It’s easily seen in the public realm of entertainment and how even when women of color who have carved out the opportunity to do amazing visible work they are ignored when it comes to industry accolades. Think about Ava DuVernay as director of Selma, her film was nominated for an Oscar but her vision and direction was not when she was snubbed as a nominee for Best Director…. To which she responded “why is there only one film starring people of color nominated? Where are we and why don’t we see more of us?
In one of my most vivid memories of my own experience, I remember standing in line at a bodega in NYC and a white man towering at 6-3 or taller, just literally stood in front of me practically touching me. Inches away from him I asked why he was cutting in front of me in line. He said he didn’t see me. I knew that to be ridiculous and said so. I was met not only with his annoyed denial and dismissal, but others in line decided to pipe in as well. Just thinking about it feels gross and makes me angry.
My Empowerment Project has been the catalyst for something I wasn’t even aware of – I needed to be seen. Choosing to be visible. Being visible is one of those things that many take for granted. It is one of those things that those of us who experience this invisible woman syndrome, will often shrink away from. During my activist days, I would often step up to make a speech, do outreach, and organize, but that was spreading the message for a cause and wasn’t about ME.
There were little to no images of people who looked like me growing up and that shaped me. In the media I was invisible. This chubby average gap-toothed Black girl did not exist in the world’s view. From that starting place the self-love journey is even harder fought and hard won when you are the antithesis of the beauty image and you are judged on your otherness, and criticized for the moments you do stand up and claim your place. Everyone needs to be seen, acknowledged and valued. The journey begins with self, and others – I am learning – will eventually if not immediately jump on the bandwagon.
The recent commitment I made to my own self-love and acceptance has been an emotional AND physical exercise. Doing yoga is just part of that physical dedication to loving myself. Posting my yoga journey and pictures of myself on Instagram and the blog is for me, a big part of it too. Mainly, being seen has emboldened me and fortified my commitment to be true to myself, who I am, what I look like and say fuck you to anyone who isn’t supportive or questions my right to exist, be seen and take up space.
The more often I present my own image to the world, the more I am accepting of those images. And the more others accept and expect to see those images. It’s an exciting realization. I have gotten some wonderful feedback from many a friend and stranger alike on and off of social media about how my visibility has helped them or inspired them in some regard. Thank you, friends, for inspiring me to stay visible. Being seen, and making myself VISIBLE in my full-bodied glory is important. I am a woman of color with something to say, something to share about my own experience. It may be one of the most radical things I’ve yet to do.
P.S. : The more we share our diversity and love our own image, the more beautiful our lives will be. If you don’t see yourself represented in the world around you I encourage you to be the change and help to create a beautiful diverse landscape with your own image.
Crowns – SweetLeigh
Model – Me