Words by Erin (she/her), 22 VIC
When my parents immigrated to Australia when I was 3, I didn’t feel I belonged. As a little girl, I always wanted blonde hair and blue eyes. This was partly because the media emphasised blonde hair, blue eyes, and whiteness as beautiful when I was a child.
As a South African Filipino, I felt different, looked different, and sounded different.
I almost felt ashamed of my heritage. It took me a long time to reconnect with my cultural identity. This is a journey I am still on, where I’m learning more about myself and my heritage.
By the end of high school, I decided that university would be the perfect place to continue to embrace my experiences as a culturally diverse woman and to help celebrate and represent Australia as a rich tapestry of cultures and lived experiences.
As a kid, I always wrote and journaled, I also wanted to make a change to help other people like me feel represented and heard. Writing was my way of doing this and also of feeling connected and beautiful. This was one of the biggest factors that helped me decide to become a journalist.
At the beginning of my degree, I needed to figure out what direction to take besides fashion journalism. When I noticed that Australia’s media landscape lacked representation of different cultures, I decided to work towards changing that and highlighting how different cultures are beautiful and deserve more representation.
I graduated last year with an undergraduate degree in journalism, and my passion discovered: discussing cultural representation in the fashion industry.
Journalists have a moral and social responsibility to represent the cultural zeitgeist accurately, fairly and adequately. During my degree, I wanted to bring forward other diverse voices to tell their lived experiences.
As a biracial woman, I can see how far we still have to go with representation. After a long journey, I’m beginning to embrace my naturally curly hair, and I’m starting to have those tough conversations about diverse representation in my journalism pieces.
The media has long needed the voices and faces that are being discussed to be present and involved when discussing this cultural diversity. In light of Australia’s multiculturalism, this needs to be changed.
In my final project of my Bachelor of Media and Communications Journalism degree, I interviewed culturally diverse creatives about their creative journeys, joys, struggles, and experiences in Australia’s fashion industry. I identified common problems facing CALD creatives, some of these including culture shock, language barriers, the tick-a-box diversity attitude in fashion, representing cultural elements, and cultural appropriation.
Several solutions were proposed for improving the Australian fashion industry. These included supporting diverse creators, providing support from leading companies, giving more power to the production and design processes, and allowing media and runway fashion spaces to hire and appropriately represent culturally diverse individuals. The aim being – to work towards creating a space where culturally diverse creatives are adequately represented.
I am currently studying towards a Bachelor of Media and Communications Honours degree and working on a creative project (a feature journalism article) that celebrates culturally diverse creatives in Australian fashion. I will be highlighting culturally diverse voices and experiences to inspire culturally diverse youths in the fashion and media space and remind them they’re powerful, valued and heard.
I hope to inspire someone who feels the same way I do. Someone who wants to make a difference and connect with other youth from diverse cultures who might feel a little lost. To let them know that they are beautiful, they have the power to get where they want to be, and many others feel the same way.
No matter what is being portrayed in the media, your culture has value and is beautiful. You are beautiful and deserve the world.
Illustration by Aileen. You can find more of her work on Instagram @aileenngstudio