Sunday, October 11, 2015

Why I Try- An Open Letter to Colbie Caillat

This week singer and actress Selena Gomez spoke up and finally confirmed her Lupus diagnoses. And in an interview with Billboard Magazine she disclosed that her time away from the public eye and in a rehab center was not drug abuse or alcohol related (as rumors speculated), but because she had to undergo chemo. And, as one might expect...the response on social media was at times increasingly supportive and positive as well as hurtful, ignorant and just mean. But, what can you expect from internet trolls.

In the interview, Selena says:

“I was diagnosed with lupus, and I’ve been through chemotherapy. That’s what my break was really about. I could’ve had a stroke...I wanted so badly to say, ‘You guys have no idea. I’m in chemotherapy. You’re assholes...But I was angry I even felt the need to say that. It’s awful walking into a restaurant and having the whole room look at you, knowing what they’re saying. I locked myself away until I was confident and comfortable again.”

But WHY did she have to lock herself away? Why and how could people be so cruel and push/bully someone into hiding? Someone who was ill for that matter? What does that say about our society? Are we no longer compassionate and empathetic? Do we no longer seek to understand before we judge? Why must we judge at all? If she were battling cancer would she have felt more comfortable sharing her struggles WHILE they were happening and not after the fact? Why does it feel like some diseases matter more than others? And why can't suffering be just as empowering as health and happiness?

All these questions and more have been running through my mind the last week. Especially after (my mistake) I started reading the comments under her interview. (Sigh)

She went into hiding and concealed what she was going through because of the hellish tabloid rumors and speculations. And when she finally comes out and claims her power, she still must suffer public criticism and reproach.
Selena Gomez photographed in Beverly Hills on
Aug. 31, 2015. Zoey Grossman

You see, the Billboard interview also consisted of a photo shoot and cover spread. In it,
most pop stars are in these mostly half nude and very sexualized. my opinion she looks amazing and you can see her strength and beauty in her eyes. And if showing her body and owning it makes her feel empowered, then rock on girl!

The internet trolls were having none of it. Comments from the interview and photo shoot ranged from:

"You're so strong. I heart you Selena!"


"Who cares?!"


"Oh, so taking off your clothes is what makes you feel comfortable and confident? You're a slut."

If Selena finally feels empowered enough to just "take it all off" and show her strength and beauty through her sexiness why the hell not? (Hell, I've wanted to do a bordeaux photo shoot for months now, I just can't afford it!)

Does society over sexulaize women, yes. I am not debating that. Could she still show confidence and courage with her clothes on, definitely. But she has a right to claim her power back any way SHE wants (as long as it doesn't hurt anyone else of course). And you know, it's not like she's being groped by some man, she's not grinding on a chair, she is taking control of HER body and telling HER story the way she wants it told. She is being courageous despite the fat shaming and bullying. She no longer cares what the critics have to say and she's basically telling them "You think I'm fat and on drugs...F's a hot and sexy photo shoot..this is me, this is who I am and I'm proud of how far I've come. I applaud you Selena.

For my sanity however, I stopped reading through the comments. But it really got me thinking about so many things. For example, why is it wrong to put on a sexy outfit as a woman and feel good in it? Why do some people see make-up as oppressive and like we're trying to hide our flaws? What if I just feel pretty with some mascara and lipstick on?

Why is it so wrong, Ms. Caillat to TRY? I completely get the message of your song. I know (and it saddens me to my deepest core) that so many women suffer with self esteem issues. They spend their whole lives never truly loving themselves, their bodies, their flaws and imperfections. I know millions of women spend hours trying to fix themselves just to please others and are never happy in their own skin. I find your song inspirational. It makes me teary-eyed every time I hear it. I think you send an important message to women all over the world. I applaud you for producing a song that inspires confidence and self-love.

But, as someone who struggles to "get up, get up, get up, get up" out of bed every day...why is it so wrong for me to TRY? To try and look better than the disease that's ravaging my insides? To try and curl my hair just right so that I feel like I accomplished something for the day? To try and throw on some lipstick and mascara because it adds a little color to my life and that makes me smile? Why is it so wrong to TRY?

I know, that I am one of the lucky ones. Not just in regard to how gentle these diseases have been on me (yes I mean that, I've seen the real havoc these illnesses can wreck on people's lives so I consider myself lucky) but because I have never really had self esteem issues. My parents refused to let me enter beauty pageants as a kid even though I begged them. They rarely called me beautiful and I was bullied as a pre-teen because I had really hairy legs and wasn't allowed to shave until I turned 15 ( I broke that rule and shaved at 13 because I liked wearing skirts and hated the taunts and teases I got everyday in the locker room and on the school bus) And yet, the bullying didn't crush me. It didn't rock my core. But, I realize now, that that was probably because I found my confidence in other places. I was always applauded and recognized for my intelligence, public speaking abilities and acting talent. I knew and still believe that I would get farther in life with my brains than with any outward beauty.

Being good at things I loved allowed me to never really worry about the size of my breasts or the occasional muffin top. I've always been extra confident (probably to a fault or close to conceitedness) because my self-worth and strength have never come from my physical appearance. Have I felt self-conscious at times and maybe "not beautiful enough?" OF COURSE! Any time I'm in a room full of skinny white women and I'm the only Latino/Black woman in the room, for example. But the feeling passes as soon as I start a conversation with one of them, because I know that I am intelligent enough to hold my own. I know that I have skills and talents some of these women can only dream of. I also know that we, as women, can only grow stronger if we pull each other up rather than drag each other down. I choose to see the good and the beauty in all women rather than judging them and being envious of what they may have that I don't.

And I know, Ms. Caillat that that is part of the message of your song. "Do you like you?" And for me, the answer is HELL YES. I believe that this girl.....
 Is just as beautiful and inspiring as this one...

So, to your point...why TRY? Because I spend an inexhaustible amount of time in yoga pants at doctor's offices feeling broken and a little blush brings life back into my placid and peaked cheeks. Why TRY? Because the cute clothes and outfits I spend hours trying to pick out help me forget about the bruises and skin spots I used to try and cover up. Why TRY? Not because I want to please anyone else, but because it makes ME happy. Why TRY? Because I spent years early on in this disease feeling sorry for myself, fatigued and too drained to do anything more than brush my teeth and keep the crust out of my eyes. Because I'm tired of looking as bad as I feel. Because there will come a time when my hands don't work and my lungs give out, and at the end of the day, I am still a 30 year old woman who wants to remember "the best years of her life" as a time where I didn't HAVE to TRY, but I DID because I still COULD.

1 comment:

  1. Great blog article Jasminne. I had never heard this song or seen this video before. I understand what Colbie was trying to say however she also discounts the psychological boost that the art of getting ready has on many women especially women who have a chronic illness or disability. I have struggled with bouts of depression ever since my Scleroderma got bad enough that I had to quit teaching. I know that I am physically better because when I was working I didn't have time to take care of myself. Now I have time to take care of myself but I often don't have the inspiration to do much of anything else. I have found that if I don't "get ready" like I used to do it has a worse effect on me.Maybe the act of getting ready gives me the boost to get something done, to feel more like a normal person. Thanks for your blog article. It helped me realize that I am not the only one that feels this way.Take care :)