Share Your Hapa Story: Elise

Elise Photo 1

Share Your Hapa Story: Elise @not_elsie

At 5, I wasn’t White enough.

Every time I went for a haircut, I pointed to the same photo in the salon’s hairstyle “inspiration guide." Every time, my mother and the hairstylist gently explained that no haircut could transform me into the blue-eyed girl with her pageant queen-esque pile of blonde curls. My parents told me I was beautiful the way I was. The rest of the world told me that beauty did not come in my color. 

At 16, I wasn’t Asian enough.

Two weeks of summer camp in Los Angeles gave me my first major exposure to Asian kids outside of my own family. My initial elation died down quickly when I realized that I didn’t exactly fit in here, either. My new friends had close ties to their Asian heritage. Many were bilingual, and even those who spoke only English used cultural references that I didn’t understand. They were kind and inclusive, but there was no hiding the fact that I was not like them.

At 27, I am enough.

As an adult I realize that any attempt to define my racial identity in terms of binaries and boundaries is futile and unnecessary. I am proud to represent the love of two people who embrace and nurture the differences between them. I am all that I need to be in order to be happy. I am Chinese, and White, and Hapa, and human, and proud.

Elise Photo 2

Originally published July 8, 2019, on Instagram, #ShareYourHapaStory035

Photo 1 & 2 Credit: Christy @chris.tree.nah