Tell me about yourself.
Gianella: My name is Gianella and I am senior in college. I was born in Peru and came to the United States when I was 4 years old. It was a big culture shock for me. I am passionate about writing so I write a lot of poetry. It helped with my transition from Peru to the United States and life as a child with immigrant parents who don’t speak English. Both cultures are so different, but poetry helped me express myself and find myself. I am pursuing a career in poetry and just submitted my work to Button Poetry. If I get selected then I get to have my work published!
What are your beauty struggles?
Gianella: When I was younger, I had a playmate who was half Peruvian and half white and so many people would say she is so pretty. I just assumed that the difference between her and I was that she was lighter skinned so I always thought that in order to be pretty you had to be fairer skinned. I thought “I’m not pretty because I’m not fair skinned.” I always took that with me. I accepted it and it wasn't until I got older that I realized "No, you don’t have to be fair skinned to be pretty. You can be brown and be pretty. My parents would say things like stay out of the sun or when my aunts would talk about a newborn baby, they would say “Her baby is so cute because she/he is so fair skinned. I don’t think they realized it but as kids, we were listening and we formed a habit of thinking “Well I don't look like that so I must be ugly.” As an adult, I consciously try to combat that because my younger cousins are listening and I don't want them to internalize that.
What does beauty mean to you?
Gianella: Being 22, I am still in the process of finding myself, but I’ve found that beauty is superficial. True beauty is within and the day I started loving myself and the day I came to terms with who I am, I realized I don’t need to look like a certain beauty standard to be beautiful; I am beautiful because of who I am. Beauty comes from different sources. Sometimes, it’s your achievements like do I have a good job or do I feel like I’m doing enough. Women of color feel like there is more expected of them. I recently had a professor get really mad at me because I missed a deadline. He goes, “You’re not like everyone else; you can’t miss a deadline. In the real world, you can't mess up and you can’t slip up.” There is so much pressure for women of color to be perfect and I think it’s time we realize that it’s okay to have a bad day. We aren't superheros and we have to be okay with that. When you start to understand that you can make mistakes, you’ll start to love yourself.
Do you think community is important?
Gianella: It’s important that we try to uplift our community in any way we can. I recently participated in activism to save Title IX at my university to preserve the ethnic studies courses. The Latino Student Association joined the Black Student Union and we ended up saving it. This made me realize that we don’t communicate with them very often even though our issues have so many overlaps. Now, both communities are coming together and creating a coalition. You have to come out not only for your own community but also for other oppressed communities.
What makes you feel unstoppable?
Gianella: Knowing that I come from a background that is resilient. My sister did an ancestry DNA test and found that we were 55% Native American and that makes me proud!
What’s your self-care routine?
Gianella: My self-care routine goes back to poetry. When I am having a bad day, I sit and write about how I am feeling. I also love to work out. I listen to different music depending on my mood. When I’m at the gym, I listen to Nicki Minaj. When I’m sad I put on Peruvian flute music. It reminds me of my ancestors and where I come from. My favorite song right now is Condor Que Pasa.
Keep up with Gianella on her journey: