The beautiful and talented Selina Carerra and I spoke a year ago. This long, overdue interview took me days to cut down, because Selina offered nothing but gems about being a baddass woman of color. You have no idea how hard it was to edit her inspiring words. I truly hope you can pull the courage and inspiration you may be in need of to love yourself, as you are, as a Beautifully Brown woman.
Now, Selina shares her amazing journey to self-love.
It’s been a struggle as a mixed brown woman of color because it’s like you’re never really enough of one thing. My father is Hispanic and Puerto Rican with West African and Taino descent, which is the original people of Puerto Rico before it was even called Puerto Rico. Back when it was called Borinquen, which is the original name of the island.
My mother is mixed as well. She’s Italian, mixed with Brazilian and Cuban descent. It’s always just been a struggle of “You’re not Spanish enough,” or “You’re not Brown enough,” or “You’re not Italian enough.” I really was just a loner kid growing up.
I was born in North Philly in a Hispanic and Brown neighborhood, and I felt very comfortable, but my parents were trying to move out. We then moved to South Philly and it was a predominantly Caucasian and Italian environment. My mom would say, “Oh, you know, we’re Italian and we’ve got family, down here. We’ll be fine.”[masterslider id=”29″]
However, the racial issues we had to go through living down there were a lot. I remember our first week or two living in our new house down there. People were leaving us notes saying that my Dad was too dark for us to live there.
It was a lot to deal with. At school, I got picked on when I was a kid because I wasn’t enough of one “thing”, and the schools I attended really were very racially divided. It was really hard for me to see my own beauty.
It was hard for me to accept myself. It was hard for me to accept my natural hair. My grandmother would try to comb out my curls and even cut off my Afro because she didn’t really know how to deal with it!
It was for sure a struggle of identity. But, luckily, I went to this high school called the Creative and Performing Arts where people just embraced their differences and allowed you to grow into yourself. It was like a bunch of creative misfits in one place. I was also lucky because my parents were so loving, even when they didn’t understand me.
Sometimes I would try to fit in by straightening my hair. I would try to also watch shows the other kids were watching just to get into some kind of conversation with them. But honestly, after a while, I just gave up.
High school was just like an opening chapter of, “Oh, I don’t have to be so guarded. I don’t have to be so over-protective of my being.” High school is when I first started freestyle singing, too. I started doing it with my best friend. We would cut lunch class or whatever and go to soundproof rooms and just sing about all our little high school dramas.
That’s also when I started wearing my hair curly, and I was like, “You know what? I’m not going to try to straighten it. I think it’s beautiful.”
I remember seeing a Facebook post by this Hispanic woman activist and she was talking about being of Afro-Latina descent. She’s was like, “I’m tired of people telling me I’m not Black enough when really, we all just got dropped off. We were all in the same boat, but just dropped off in different places.”
I was like, “You know what? That’s real.
I think just having to answer the question “What are you?” is always frustrating because it’s so many different layers. Most of the time I’ll be like, “I’m an Afro-Latina mix,” and people will ask, “Oh, really? What exactly?” [Laughs] I understand it, though.
But then, I have to go into all of the breakdown and it goes into this whole other conversation, and it’s just like, “Oh, we could have just ended it with ‘I’m mixed’,” because this breakdown is a lot. Sometimes people just try to categorize me on their own, and I’m like, “You don’t even know me!” It’s pretty odd how those conversations of ethnic backgrounds can go at times.
I’ll have to say, getting the opportunity to travel, when I first started touring and performing, and seeing the world really helped me embrace who I am and let go of these walls that I’ve built against myself.
Now it’s like, I am Brown. I have naturally beautiful curly hair. I am a little curvy. I have fair skin, and that’s okay.
It’s just who I am. This is how I was born. Every day I think I’m learning more and more how to love myself and embrace myself and break down any walls of insecurities that were built from the past.
I love being Brown. I love being mixed. I love being Latina. I love being African. I love being every part of me. I feel like I can be a voice for other mixed kids that feel out of place a lot of the time.
At least I hope so.