This next lesson slapped me right in the face so abruptly that I wasn’t sure what was going on until I regained my footing. I had been forewarned about the endless foto-foto solicitations and compliments and attention. I initially shrugged it off thinking it wouldn’t be so bad. It was only when I hit my low point in late October that I realized what was happening. For the sake of being totally honest, I felt like how I assume a depressed celebrity feels: disconnected from everyone, misunderstood, like a human toy. People wanted pictures with me and showered me with compliments simply because of how I look. What they saw on the surface was enough for them to categorize me as special.
Lesson #3: White privilege. People are inundated with white propaganda, if you will. Ads and billboards feature models with fair skin. In Magelang, I have found a single moisturizer without whitening agents. Sunscreens and soaps have skin lightening chemicals. It’s even hard to find a non-whitening deodorant on the shelves. White skin is glamorized, and it has been an eye-opening experience for me to be at the heart of such a discomforting notion. I am surrounded by so many beautiful souls, and despite how much I try to acknowledge and combat this privilege, my voice seems to be unheard.