Share Your Hapa Story: Naiia Lajoie
Share Your Hapa Story 048: Naiia Lajoie @naiialajoie
I’m Naiia Lajoie, pronounced “na-HEE-yuh la-JWAH”. My name is as culturally diverse as I am; my first name is Arabic and my last name is Québécois (from Quebec, Canada). As for me, I’m half Filipina, quarter Syrian, and quarter French Canadian.
My Dad is the half Syrian/half French Canadian who grew-up in Montreal. French is his first language. He speaks French, English, and conversational Arabic. My Mum is full Filipina. She comes from a small, rural village in the Bicol region of the Philippines. Her first language is a Bicol dialect, second is Tagalog, and third is English. She and my Dad met in Manila where she was working as a travel agent. After a short courtship, they married and she relocated to Canada, where I & my sister were born.
My Filipino roots are the heritage that I identify the most with. While I was born in Montreal, we moved to the countryside in a neighboring province where I attended a Catholic school. I endured everything from teachers insisting my name was spelled incorrectly, kids on the bus telling me the foreign food in my lunchbox stank, children making fun of my bushy eyebrows or the way my Mum styled my hair…even my 7th Grade religion teacher used me as an example to explain what “exotic” meant.
My Dad moved the family to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia where he got a job contract. I attended an American International school; American by curriculum, International by student population. There were over 200 nationalities represented. Being 1 of SEVERAL different shades of brown was an eye-opening and welcomed change.
It wasn’t until high school that I realized I could be considered “attractive”. I came into my own in college and beyond, where everything I had ever been teased for were the very same facets that got me hired. I began insisting people call me by my real name, whereas before I settled for nicknames to make it “easier” for them. My “ethnic ambiguity” became a selling point when I started pursuing a career in the entertainment industry.
Now based in Los Angeles, I embrace, celebrate, and represent my “otherness” proudly. Following in my Mum’s footsteps, I’m now working on dual citizenship.
Also published April 15, 2021 on Instagram, #ShareYourHapaStory048