I took this picture a few weeks ago when my boyfriend brought me to The High Line, and these words have stuck with me ever since. Lately I’ve been feeling all over the place, and I think that generally comes with leveling up and building a brand – especially when your brand is comprised of many different facets. When you identify with what makes you who you are, the usage of labels by yourself as well as others is sometimes inevitable. I’m sure labels were established to create a sense of understanding and organization, but they can also cause confusion, division, and perpetuate stereotypes because nobody is just ONE thing.
Growing up, I generally identified as Black despite being biracial because my African-American features were so prominent. I was always proud of being Black and Japanese, but the two confused other people, so it was easy for them to just accept me as a “mulatto,” “yellow bone” or “light skin” as opposed to a girl who was simply the result of two different worlds merging together. A large part of this lack of acceptance is due to the belief that in order to be Black, you cannot be anything else. And in addition to being JUST Black, you are expected to act a certain way, know certain things and do x,y and z in order to prove and maintain your Blackness.
I was a multi-sport athlete and played soccer up until age 20, but most people only knew me to be a soccer player. When I stopped playing soccer, people couldn’t understand why I revoked my scholarship and became a regular student for the first time, one who subsequently decided to pursue her art after graduating. But truth be told, I have been an artist for as long as I can remember. I began writing poetry at age 9, sang routinely, played both the guitar and the violin, and even wrote music. I realized that this took so many people by surprise because they considered me an athlete and nothing else. Because soccer was what I dedicated so much of my time to, people subconsciously formed the idea that soccer was pretty much all that defined me.
I grew up in church under an Apostolic/Pentecostal doctrine, and although it serves as my foundation, I can see how much damage it has caused in my life as well as those who grew up the same way as me. To many who exist in that realm, being “saved” doesn’t count if you simply consider yourself a Christian; denomination and being a part of a church organization is literally everything to them. I have been to churches where the Pastor believes in being baptized and receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost (speaking in tongues) just as a Pentecostal is raised, and these churches clearly stated that they were Baptist or non-denominational. Taking pride in being Pentecostal is one thing, but minimizing someone else’s spiritual walk because they aren’t that or don’t refer to themselves as that is another. In my opinion, your core beliefs, your relationship with God and the life you lead mean more than a denomination ever will.
Life has taught me that a lot of times, people will try to put you into a box and label it with whatever makes them feel comfortable so that YOU can make sense to THEM. The good news is, those who were created to break molds cannot be contained. There are layers and levels to every single one of us, and we owe it to ourselves to exist beyond the limitations that people try to attach to us as we dig deeper in our self-discovery and incorporate these different parts of us into every day life.
I am a model. I am a writer. I am a performing artist. I am a Christian. Those are titles that are accurately used to depict me, but one does not overtake the other, nor do they extinguish other descriptions that haven’t been typed in this post. The above and more, are all components that help make up my entire being. I am multi-disciplinary. I am multi-faceted. I am multi-dimensional. I am someone who willingly chooses creative and spiritual freedom over ideas of who I should be and what that should look like. Who I want to be, is simply who I am.