This is the key I want to emphasize in this episode, that concurrent support across generations. To keep morphing the true picture of what each other is experiencing and needing. We need to acknowledge it in the moment that it’s happening. What each generation is feeling, what support they need from each other, how they see themselves in their own future, so that we can help each other get there.
Welcome to the Life Lnxx podcast, where we share how the past is part of your current day, so that you can choose your future, living your true diversity out loud, because we’re not blending in I’m your host, Consuelo, Crosby, and also the creator of this content. If you wanted to chat more about what we talk about on this show please reach out to me on whatever platform you enjoy on social media. We’re available @lifelnxx or on our website at TheLnxx.com, that’s L-N-Double X. I’d love to engage with you more in these topics and hear more of what you have to say about them.
Women’s History Month
I just want to take a moment to preface this episode by acknowledging the emotions that might be making this week much more difficult. On this March 2nd, Women’s History Month has begun during a literal historical moment instigated last week. For as much as we want to celebrate and revel in the iconic efforts of women throughout history and in our current day, our feelings maybe all over the place.
It’s so difficult to focus on joy and gratitude after the fatigue of these last years and this renewed threat of an evil, we thought we had laid to rest decades ago, but all the more reason that we need to be here and be talking generationally. It can feel like too much, but we’ve been here before and together with the generations ahead of us and those behind, we are a powerful source of comfort, support and strength. You’re not alone in this because together we are one.
The dawning of this year, 2022, Year of the Tiger, has proven to be so on point. It’s luring us out, demanding our strength and you may feel so worn out from the past two years, ladies. And, rightfully so. But this is the year, the year you realize that what used to break you. What used to freeze you up, now fires up your determination as each year passes.
You gain more strength, more experience, more understanding of what’s important in the moment and in the long run. Even if you may not feel it, even if you feel like nothing really has changed; that strength has grown inside of you and it’s ready to be used. In these moments, this is when you call on them.
How Generations Make Change That Lasts
In that light in talking of the future in talking of finding joy in the determination to keep moving forward, we’re going to focus today on two women who found themselves together in one spot and are actually multiple generations apart. I love these two. Let’s have a big shout out to Ariana DeBose, the brilliant Afro-Latina actress, who won her SAG award over the weekend for her role as Anita in Steven Spielberg’s recent West Side Story. She’s the first Latina woman who has ever won a film award from the Guild, which is both crazy that it took this long and insanely hopeful that we are on the verge of something great.
This snippet that I’m quoting here is what really illuminates what we’re highlighting today. Right at the beginning of her acceptance, Ariana says, “It’s taken a long time for me to feel comfortable calling myself an actor”. And she goes on to say, “When you see one of us, I hope you see all of us”. That collective “us” goes so deep with Ariana in her complexity and that same depth can be found in each of us when we push our diversity outwardly for everyone to see and embrace.
This is what we’re bringing forward in today’s episode: how each generation makes room for the next one concurrently through their decisions and actions today and from the past. Concurrently is key here. Why wait to hand down the torch when you can be lighting someone else’s right now? Think about how much more powerful fire is when fed fuel, rather than just burning into embers and trying to reignite. While this flame is roaring and raging, let’s add fuel to that. Let’s just keep lighting all the torches we can find, ladies.
And as always, I have a personal story, this one a tad frustrating, that lends itself to our topic today. You probably can relate to this in some facet of your life, which is part of the frustration. It shouldn’t still be occurring, but all the more reason to unite across generations to make change that lasts.
Generations of Latinas in West Side Story
We’re so lucky to have a perfect example of this generational interlude right here, right now. And it’s shown to us in the recent West Side Story movie that Ariana, major SAG award winner, and Rita Moreno performed in together. This is truly a side-by-side comparison of what we’re talking about today because Rita played Anita, in the 1961 original film, the same role that Ariana brought forward last year. Isn’t that amazing?
Both received accolades for their roles, and both made iconic strides; Rita being the first Latina to earn an Oscar for her performance and Ariana already having one, her major SAG, also up for an Oscar. Oh, we are cheering you on, Ariana!
Now, if you aren’t familiar with Rita, she’s a goddess that we still have the privilege to see here in the Bay Area. She was even just at the Warriors game last week in this amazing yellow duster and blue pantsuit. Girl! Woo!
Go see the visual. She’s 90 years old. She turned 90 the day before the release of the movie so she’s not taking a backseat. And if you want to know more about her to catch up on history, to see how long she has done this fight for us, there’s a PBS documentary called, ‘Just a Girl Who Decided to Go For It’. You can see the reference on our Instagram stories @lifelnxx and it’s a great way to get a quick history lesson of what it was like for Latina women. Even her mother and how much they fought to get here. 90 years plus worth of fighting for us.
Plus, you develop this immense gratitude for Rita staying strong with her persistence to change the world so that other women like Ariana would not have to go through the same experience. Because if Rita had quit, like she wanted to, if she had quit, if she were not present to be alongside Ariana in the newer version of the film, perhaps Ariana would have been in the same situation that Rita face 60 years ago. She would have had to be doing the same fight, trying to hold open that door all by herself. And it could have proven too much for her as well and potentially, that door could’ve slammed shut.
Instead, look at what these ladies have done, what they’ve taught us in one lifetime, in your lifetime. We see Rita’s persistence to stay present as her true self. She’s so sassy in her true Puerto Rican diversity and continue speaking out against the system that tried to pigeonhole her in their interpretation of what a Latina should be. All the while encouraging and supporting other Latinas to follow through even though Hollywood hadn’t changed. It still needs a long way to go.
Speaking For The Next Generation
Now imagine what else would you do if there were someone leading you in, holding that door open and saying, “oh, sorry, I know this looks scary, but I’ll be here with you the entire time”. That is more than a mentor, ladies. That’s not someone giving you tips. That’s someone taking you by the hand. Consider what it would have felt like for your younger self to have that kind of support and think what it would mean to a younger woman now to have you provide this for her. For you to validate what she may be going through, because you remember it yourself. Or, learn from her. How she sees the future and what she needs from us now to make her future happen.
This is the key I want to emphasize in this episode, that concurrent support across generations to keep morphing the true picture of what each other is experiencing and needing. We need to acknowledge it in the moment, that it’s happening: what each generation is feeling, what support they need from each other, how they see themselves in their own future, so that we can help each other get there.
Now there’s even more beauty to Rita’s story, but it’s through a pretty painful lens. In the documentary, Rita speaks only recently about her manager raping her during her career. It’s horrific what she went through and, much like her contemporaries in Hollywood, they had to endure this aggression and stay silent in order to avoid being blacklisted and not work. Imagine that’s your alternative and many women still find themselves in it today.
Yet Rita seizes the moment in the new version of West Side Story to add the role of Veronica, an older woman who was looking out for the younger Anita. Rita added the older version of herself back into her own life. This role of this older woman, this is who she needed in her own life, in her real life. Someone watching out for her in order for her to be successful at what she wanted to do.
And here she was providing that not only for Ariana in her role, but for all of us watching the film. She emulated how women should protect each other by acting in the moment and fearlessly, defying the masses. But admittedly, it’s too hard to do alone. And honestly, really frightening. But when you put it in the context of thinking of your younger self and realize that not fighting for change, not disrupting the threat, leaves women in the same situation 60 years later.
Each New Generation Creates Surge
Rita’s amazing and her actions are so powerful. Truly an icon for both her sassiness that she lives daily, out loud unchangeable, and for her persistent fight. She really sets the example of the holding that fire within you to persevere for others. That’s that Latina compassion, that empathy, to work hard for yourself, yes, but in the name of others. That even if your career, or life in general, isn’t exactly as you want taking up the effort to move it forward benefits, not only the generation coming, but your own younger self.
Dedication to change the old paradigm and embrace women’s place in the world will prove to you that what you may experience earlier in your life, the biases in your early years, can’t hold you back. Every effort you make to stand your ground and push things forward does matter. It matters for you as you grow older and it matters for the women around you, in all generations.
Understanding your own role in the big picture of life is tricky when you’re working so hard to create your own. Trying to think about what’s happened ahead and what’s coming up behind can we too much to take on. And yet, we need to keep our peripheries open to it. It’s really important to keep yourself in context of the generations before and after you. Because, we aren’t meant to outdo the generation ahead of us, nor be the example of what the next generation should be doing. For as much as you may feel like you’re leading, you are actually getting pushed forward, much like you are pushing forward the generation ahead.
It’s a surge, which actually makes life easier. Instead of pulling something really heavy forward, you’re just catching that wave.
You Are Not Alone In Making Change
Each generation has to play their part and moving humanity forward by supporting each other actively. This helps you realize that change may happen faster. If we’re making the change in mass, rather than one generation at a time, or one person at a time, it’s too much burden to think that you alone, or even your generation, must make the change you want to see in the world. But, think of the change that could occur with each generation involved at the same time.
Did you just exhale at the idea of not doing it all alone? I know so often we feel alone, especially during this isolation we’ve been through, but you’re not. You’re a part of something so big across this planet. You are a ripple in the growing wave of female empowerment across the globe. Or, let’s use a bigger vision. You are a wave in the growing tsunami of female empowerment. Each wave, whether it’s the ginormous Monster Wave or the daily lapping wave, is part of a giant presence on Earth that moves as one. This is how we must view ourselves globally. So you can revel in the joy of your own thunderous moment, of making your big splash and still withdraw into this larger ocean of generations of women to gather strength, and come back with another thunderous moment.
You’re both independent and dependent at the same time. And this is a beautiful thing. This gives validation to you as a unique person in your independence and as part of something greater with your dependence.
Latinas In STEM
I hope I fired you up. I’m living Rita through me, I hope, although I’m not dressed as sassy as she is right now. If you didn’t know this, my hashtag is #inmylifetime and it speaks to the change that I needed as a Latinoa structural engineer, yet I knew wasn’t going to happen within my generation. Collectively, there wasn’t concern to get more women of color into the STEM fields because women weren’t allowed as a whole. It was considered a white man’s job and younger people were expected to just follow suit, literally suit black suit, skinny black tie, black frame glasses. Hm, it might’ve modernized into plaid shirts and khakis, but still.
And even though this wasn’t my profession of choice, I stuck with it because I realized I could speak to the experience and the need to change the profession going forward. It’s an exciting profession and women would love it. Society could gain a lot from having more women with their creativity and their communication skills in this profession.
But making change is exhausting. It’s exhausting when the insistence to keep things the same as the past is so strong. This is where I feel I failed the next generation, even in all these years of efforts, because I don’t see the big change. Even though I went into the high schools and universities to encourage young to come into this field and I continue to volunteer for organizations like Techbridge girls in Oakland to encourage young girls, “Yes! Love math, love science! Make the world!”
The change feels so slow to me. The problem just seemed too big for one voice and I’m hard on myself, but not this time. This feels too real for me. There were so many times I wanted into quit because staying in the industry, you had to put on the super suit all the time.
Change Is Slow
For some reason I couldn’t let this profession just stay within the hands of the people who didn’t want to change. I wanted more women, more Latinas to come into this major presence because this is a fabulous profession. So I stood my ground and I kept present. But, that puts you in this line of fire.
A harsh example was when I was on the board at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo. There was this constant discussion from the industry leaders on how to advance the profession. This was 30 years after my own graduation from there so I thought, oh boy, this is a chance to really make change. All the engineering members were male, which was a true representation of my past, but not what I wanted to create for the future.
And my main purpose was advocating for greater contract fees. I know that sounds obscure, but in our society, we associate financial costs with value. So I saw it as a way to raise our value in society’s eyes, create a greater presence in society and ultimately higher salaries in order to both attract the top talent that we were losing to tech and open the doors for populations of students that were not part of this handed down pipeline, the plaid and khaki pipeline. So, I thought this should have been something so widely accepted and supported by the Board and felt pretty good about being the only female because no one else had thought of this.
Instead I was constantly shot down, over a three year term, berated for insinuating that things should change. It was so discouraging. I felt the same vibe that I had as a student, 30 years earlier. Nothing had changed. I was encouraged to be there if I remained supportive of their agenda, but not if I wanted things to change. But I knew if I stayed silent, if things didn’t change, it would be even more detrimental for a future engineers to feel this 35 years from now.
Staying Present For The Next Generation
And much like Rita, I just want to stay present for the next generation in the belief that if there were just more women, if there were more voices, it would change in our favor. We wouldn’t have to keep fighting for something so base as representation and higher pay. I keep trying, because I want life to be better for you knowing you’re shouldering this burden across your generation. There just weren’t enough of us before, but there definitely are more of you now. And we are so grateful that you have taken on this burden. That there was enough change for you to come through in mass.
I just want you to know how hard we’ve been fighting for you fighting for things to change, because we didn’t want you to feel what we went through. We didn’t want you to have to fight as much as we have been. But, change is slow and we continue to fight for you just like you will continue to fight for the women coming behind you. And, that’s the wave effect. The ideal that one wave alone isn’t enough, but as each wave joins into the bigger ocean of women, it will return thunderously and with more impact.
That’s why we need a dedicated Women’s History Month to let you know how hard women have fought to get us. And how easily it may slip away if we stop the fight, if we think it’s over. But, not if we take on the Rita’s role, not if we stay present to speak the true narrative of what is happening within our lifetimes.
In our lifetimes, we have knowledge of at least three, and sometimes four, generations. Think of all that knowledge we can learn across those generations, older and younger because when generations of women join together to take up space in the current day, the idea of repeating the past begins to fade.
Keep Lighting the Next Generation
Do you remember feeding that fire while the flames are roaring, rather than allowing the fire to die down from generation to generation only to have to restart. Now, let’s just keep fueling that fire while we’re all here, while we can share this narrative. Make your place in history now, rather than having others do it for you in the future. You are history in the making and we are so proud of.
We would love to see how you’re considering the next generation in your actions and your everyday life in the choices you make. So tag us on Instagram or Twitter @LifeLnxx. Take a look on our website at TheLnxx.com, that’s L-N-double X, for each episode’s transcripts and the articles linked to what you’ve heard here today.
You can hear Ariana’s entire acceptance speech by visiting the SAG awards sites. She’s wearing this amazing fuchsia Valentino and radiant AF so don’t miss out. Again, Rita Moreno’s documentary, streaming on Netflix, ‘Just a Girl Who Decided To Go For It’. Her vivacity is so contagious and intoxicating, it will affect you. That woman! Woo!
Big shout out to our global audience. So grateful you’re here with us every week and supporting each other to keep our human touch. Thank you for your continued efforts towards empowering women into leadership roles. We’d love to hear the stories of women that are closer to home for you, so please tag us on social media @LifeLnxx.
Let’s get this month started and bring our female stories forward.
Step into your truth, ladies. Ciao!
[…] Ariana Debose spoke specifically to that powerfully to that, how she felt that same ambiguity because of not being raised immediately in the culture, not speaking the language, not representing as such, but felt, almost an imposter in her own identity because she wasn’t living it out loud […]