“If you see something that you don’t feel is right, stand up and say something.”

Early this year, Asia Jackson celebrated the two-year anniversary of her #MagandangMorenx movement, which aims to “empower, reclaim, and redefine what it means to be a Filipino, and celebrate our diversity of colour.”

Magandang morena translates to “beautiful dark skin” in English, and although Filipino is generally a genderless language, the words moreno and morena, which the Filipino language borrowed from Spanish, are. So for her movement, Asia chose to spell morena with an x to make the hashtag more inclusive. “I didn’t want people who identified as moreno to have to use #MagandangMorena. That doesn’t make sense. I just thought #MagandangMorenx meant everyone could use it,” she explains.

A movement in response to bullying

The movement holds personal meaning for Asia. It was inspired by her experiences of being bullied her entire childhood for the colour of her skin. At It’s A Girl Thing Manila 2018, Asia opened up about why she feels it’s important to keep the movement going:

“When I was a child I was bullied for having darker skin. I also had friends and family, classmates who were also made fun of [for] their brown skin tone. I remembered how that felt when it was done to me, and from that day on I was like, I never want anybody else to feel this way. 

“So I really want to keep the movement alive because I don’t want anyone else to feel this way. This hashtag is like my baby, and I really want to keep growing it so the people who need to see it, see it,” she says. 

“This hashtag is like my baby, and I really want to keep growing it so the people who need to see it, see it.”

Real success starts with a purpose

With over 20,000 posts (and growing) on Instagram that use the hashtag #MagandangMorenx, it’s safe to say that the movement is a success—both by conventional standards and by Asia’s definition of success: “What separates the successful influencers from everyone else is that they have a purpose.” 

“Have something you’re passionate about, something that relates to the world we’re living in. Have something to talk about so that you’re a fully realised human being to your audience,” she advises.

Speaking in front of a large audience with such grace and conviction, it’s easy to assume that Asia has always been confident. But she says nothing could be further from the truth. 

She reveals that, because she was bullied when she was younger, she was actually quite a shy kid. “Loving myself did not come easy. I had to work on my self-love to be the confident person I am today,” she shares. 

Empower yourself or a friend today

Asia adds, “It’s so difficult to love yourself when [you’re] living in a world that tells you you’re not good enough. Everywhere you go there are advertisements telling you that you need to change everything about yourself. But once I realised that everything is a trend or for profit, that’s when I decided I’m going to start loving myself for who I am, and I don’t care what anybody else thinks about it.”

When a fan asked her about how to overcome low self-esteem, Asia reiterates that self-love takes real work and commitment. She says that telling someone to “Just embrace who you are!” isn’t enough. “That is such a simple answer to a really complex issue. Having high self-esteem is really not easy […] You have to consciously do things to love yourself,” she says. 

For me, for example, I was really self-conscious about my hair growing up because everyone made fun of it, and I learnt to embrace it. But anytime I would see a magazine cover encouraging [hair straightening], I literally had to tell myself: That’s not me, this is who I am, and I love myself. So you really have to consciously make an effort to love yourself,” she points out.

Another thing we need to make a conscious effort to do is to change the traditional perceptions of beauty. “Beauty truly is in the eye of the beholder. Just because one person says something negative about the way you look, it doesn’t matter because that person just has a screwed up view of beauty,” Asia says. 
One way to challenge conventional beauty norms is to inspire and influence other young people to celebrate morena skin and diversity of colour. And Asia believes we all have what it takes to do that. We just need to stand up for ourselves and our friends: “People are so comfortable being mean to others because the people they’re being mean to don’t say anything. So if you see something that you don’t feel is right, stand up and say something.”

Nikola Hughes is a second-year university student currently studying English Literature & Theatre Studies at the University of Leeds. In addition to her course, Nikola has a strong interest in Student Radio, Journalism, and Musical Theatre. She is an aspiring writer and hopes to one day travel the world writing articles and filming documentaries on subjects she feels passionate about.

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