THIS IS MY CHILDHOOD in the Philippines! These kids are amazing and so cute.
My friends and I would hold beauty pageants like this too, rearranging our clothes to make strange shapes, and adorning ourselves with plants. I remember one time I picked a bunch of flowers and put them in a piece of cellophane I found in the trash and made a bouquet as a first prize for the winner.
Another time, we had a pageant by the river, and we were wearing makeshift swimsuits. Someone wore a plastic bag (literally - arms through the handles, 2 holes at the bottom for their legs). I was in the final 2, and the question was “Who would you marry? A rich man or someone who loves you?” My competitor chose the rich man, so they could have a better life (snap, snap, snap. that’s real). I chose someone who loves me because when someone loves you, you always feel rich (damn, that’s real too). Of course, I won.
It’s strange how a video can transport you back 20 years as if it were last week. Had I seen this video a few years ago when I was still in the military and uncomfortable with my femininity, I would have felt weirdly embarrassed. But now, I’m cheering on these kids (WERQQQQ!) like they deserve to be cheered.
Kiam Marcelo Junio, 2012
I remember being a kid in the Philippines thinking Pizza was fancy cuisine that only rich city folk and Americans ate.
My fourth grade teacher pronounced it as “Pee-cha” for some reason.
Confessions of an Asian Dreamer
As a teen, I had visions of grandeur. I wanted to become a singer-songwriter-pop-R&B-star. I wanted to be interviewed and photographed, and loved. I wrote dozens of songs about love, crushes, breakup, imaginary dates. I participated in every single talent show I could from 2nd grade all the way through 11th grade. I found groups of like-minded individuals who encouraged me and this dream. My classmates referred to me as “the singer.” I recorded songs with some friends, and we sold copies of our CD’s in school, created events and advertised the release of “my next single” and “long-awaited EP.” I performed as the “opening act” for a budding pop star’s school concert. Everyone I knew supported me. Almost everyone.
Where it mattered most, I had no support but only a voice saying, “Asians don’t make it in the American entertainment industry. Stop being so ambitious.” At times, I took this fighting, thinking, “I’ll show you!” But a lot of the time, I also swallowed these words, until I felt sick. What if it’s true? Are Asians really only supposed to be in the background? “Stop dreaming. You should be a doctor instead. You’ll make more money.”
Remembering this pains me, even as a “grown-up,” with new aspirations and plans, some wounds don’t ever completely heal. Despite my newfound self-awareness, self-love, and self-confidence, sometimes, I still revert back to this teenage version of myself, the one who knew his own talent and potential, and thought he was only held back by the shade of his skin.
In, how long has it been - 10 years? What has changed about the entertainment industry? Not much, really. A few Asian-American entertainers here and there - Far East Movement, Darren Criss (above), Cherice, one of the guys from Black Eyed Peas, the lead singer of The Little Ones, that guy from Linkin Park, and Hoobastank, etc. (I don’t really keep up with Pop culture these days)… But with the economic crisis, and immigration reform, and the crazy Tea Party movement, Xenophobia is at an all-time high.
But slowly, slowly, I think America is beginning to see its colors. At least I hope so. Or maybe I’m just dreaming again.
YES, my stage name was “hotchyld.” Go ahead. Laugh. I’m laughing too, it really is hilarious!
Darren Criss - Filipino/Irish