Name: Luisanna Tejada
Born: Dominican Republic
Lives: Brooklyn, NY
I was born in the Dominican Republic to parents who were also native to the country. I always valued the diversity within my own family, which was so normal and beautiful to me. I was 3 months old when my parents decided to migrate to the United States. First, we lived in New York, and shortly after they were transferred with their job to a very small town in Ohio, where I lived until I was 23 years old. Growing up in Ohio, I was constantly asked:
“What are you?”⠀
“Are you mixed?” ⠀
“Where are you from?”
As early as 1st grade, my response would always be “I’m Dominican” because that is all I knew. I went through many years of having an identity crisis of trying to figure out who I truly was. ⠀
At the time, I never thought to research the history of the Dominican Republic or even question why I looked different to those around me because in my own family I had relatives from all ranges of skin tones and hair textures.
It actually wasn’t until I moved to New York City after college that I felt at home and felt a sense of belonging. There were people from all walks of life strutting through the streets owning their hair, bodies, style, etc. Something inside of me was crying out that I didn’t have to hide anymore. I felt inspired to fully start to embrace my true self. Now I can say that I am so grateful to be from such a beautiful island, to have skin that browns under the divine sun, to have curly hair, to be able to dance effortlessly to the beat of the music and to have a cute round nose.
I wish I could tell my first-grade self that it’s okay to be unique. We are all made differently and once you start acknowledging that, you will start shining your own light that no one else can diminish.