Aliyah Moulden: On Being Different
Aliyah Moulden opened up to us about her experience with feeling like an outsider, both in life and in the entertainment industry. This is her story:
I’ve never understood where prejudice comes from. But I’ve experienced plenty of it my entire life.
My mom’s side of the family is from Mexico, and my dad’s side of the family is African American. I never looked completely Mexican, and I never looked completely black, so, as a result, I never quite fit in.
At extended family gatherings, I was the ultimate outsider. Regardless of which side of the family I was spending time with, I was always the one person who didn’t look like anybody else. In school, the black kids told me I wasn’t really black, and the Mexican kids told me I wasn’t truly one of them, either. My mom enrolled me in Bailé Folklórico classes, a Mexican form of dance, so I could experience the culture and be a part of a community. This plan didn’t exactly work. Because I’m only half Mexican, I faced a lot of prejudice and intolerance from my peers, until eventually I chose to quit. On top of the exclusion from both the black and Mexican communities, I had classmates making fun of me for my skin being so much darker than theirs. I used to cry every night wondering why I had to look different than everybody else, and wondering why people felt they had to treat me badly because of the color of my skin.
The hardest part was that I didn’t have anybody who fully understood what I was going through. I have three sisters who look like me, but they’re much older, so when I was growing up they were already out of the house with new families of their own. My mom and grandma were so loving and supportive, but, though they tried, they never really understood what i was going through. I couldn’t help but feel extremely alone.
Of course, it didn’t help that nobody on TV or in the movies looked like me. When you’re a little girl, you look to the screens for your role models. Because I never saw heroines with dark skin, I internalized the belief that I could never achieve greatness.
My incredible mother did everything in her power to build up my self-esteem. She told me my skin was beautiful, she encouraged me to love myself regardless of how people treated me. She never let me speak badly of myself. Slowly, my insecurities lessened, and I became more comfortable in my skin. In 2009, when I was eight years old, The Princess and the Frog came out, and for the first time there was an African American Disney Princess. I was so excited. It meant so much to me to have a strong female character who was also black in a movie. To this day I still watch that movie quite often. It reminds me that I’m not alone, and gives me hope for the future of diversity in the entertainment industry.
The coolest part to me is how things have come full circle. Since I competed on The Voice and started playing Luna on Chicken Girls, young girls of color recognize me when I’m out and about. They come up to me and tell me that I inspire them, and make them feel worthy of pursuing their own dreams. I’m so grateful that I get to stand for something that means a lot to me, and hopefully make a difference for the next generation of minorities in America and how they perceive themselves.
Today, I’ve come to love who I am, including what I look like. I’m very happy to see that more and more, people of color are being given the opportunities they deserve and not being constantly pushed into the background. Obviously, we have a long way to go before minorities are treated and represented as absolute equals in this country and society, but we’ve made a lot of progress, and I think the situation is better today than ever before.
I’ve never understood where prejudice comes from. I know that it’s taught through generations, but where and why did it originate? Why do so many feel the need to judge others before getting to know them? How can a person dislike somebody just because of their race, skin color, gender, or sexual orientation? I don’t know what caused this hateful closed-mindedness, and maybe I never will, but I’m glad I’m getting to be a part of the change.