• Christina Peña


What is a foundation? A base. A ground. A place to start. It is the lowest load-bearing part of a structure. The lowest load-bearing part? As a mixed race woman I cannot tell you how many people have stepped on my back to get where they are today. We could talk about the teacher, who in college told me there was no space for my kind on her stage. Or the high school director who forgot I auditioned because the brown role had already been filled. Maybe we could talk about the girl who knocked over my enchiladas at Heritage Day because I was pretending to be a Mexican.

These are my foundations. These are the words I hear when a casting director tells me they don’t know where to put me in West Side Story. This is what happens to me and so many others on a daily basis in the Entertainment Industry. Right now in the world, we are trying to move forward. We are pushing ourselves to the limits to understand and have empathy for stories like mine because believe me I’m not the only one. I am tired of being the one holding up mirrors to the world. I am exhausted. I can no longer be your lowest load-bearing member.

Do you know what I can do? I can tell you stories. I can share my experiences. I can call you out when you are affecting my structure. That is how we move forward. We listen. We take a moment and breathe. Maybe you aren’t the smartest person in the room but if you ask me a question, I will answer. I will put in the emotional labor to move you forward on your path. But in return I ask you to do the work. And please don’t tell me what I need. I already have enough white women telling me how to heal and that they understand my trauma.

Trauma. That’s an interesting word. I never looked at these stories above as my trauma. For a long time I was taught that, this is just what happens when you’re different. I had a teacher recently talk about legacy. The idea of what happens when we are gone. Is my trauma my legacy? Is it what defines me? Or can I change it?

Can I help the Entertainment Industry redefine what it means to be an artist? What is art anyway? Speaking up. Telling others your story. Writing it down for the next generation to know. Creating a song filled with your broken hearted self. Putting your heart on the line. That’s that kind of art I want to see.

Let’s do it. Let’s make this world, the world that we want to be a part of. Not for our children or our children’s children. This is our home. This is our legacy.

So. What do you have to say?

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