As a collective, the Latinx brown experience is engrained in our identity. No, I do not mean how I can navigate you through any Hispanic person’s kitchen (because the pots and pans will be in the oven), or how Vicks VapoRub is the cure to headaches, earaches, rashes, cramps, sore throats, back and chest pain, runny noses, cold feet (ft. fuzzy socks) … “You’re having a bad day? Let me put some Vicks on your feet, mija.” In all seriousness, the core of the collective brown experience is in how we were raised, the food, family gatherings, the love. And you know you’re grown when you get to be the one standing on the garage roof in charge of the piñata. We all share the microaggressions, the looks, the mispronunciation of our names, the colorism. And it goes without saying that we equally understand the collective outsider experience within our Latinx identity at the same time. The nagging voice in the back of your brain asking, “am I Latinx ‘enough’?”

I know I am constantly asking myself that question. And I know a big part of this has to do with what I saw and still see in the media. When I was younger, I had beef with malibu barbie. She was the girl I wanted to grow up to be even though the kids at Sunday school reminded me we were not the same. The day my mom bought me a brown barbie was a historical day in the life of Madeline. I was only four years old and was very much aware of how powerful it felt to see myself reflected in media. That’s why I would religiously watch Selena Gomez in Wizard of Waverly Place. She is half Italian and half Mexican, just like me. I would pretend she was my older sister and maybe she is, who knows. As I grew up going to an all-girls catholic high school, coming out as bisexual, and simply existing, I made it a point to ditch Sofia Vergara for musician Kali Uchis, and actresses Aubrey Plaza and Stephanie Beatriz; three women who I have decided to reflect me to a T. I am not the maid, criminal, teen mom, or hot tamale stereotype. Don’t get me wrong, I have my spicy Latina side, and there is nothing inherently wrong with the women portraying those roles on TV and movies, but they simply do not relate to who I am in the slightest.

The United States media is a mirror for what they want us to see. For Latinx people, this mirror is frosted, it lacks visibility. Considering we are the fastest-growing population on a global level and our buying power is high enough to be the fourteenth largest economy in the world, our representation and participation are strangely low and ironically, we are still regarded as a minority. Lack of representation not only encourages hostility but also has the power to skew the public’s perception of all people of color in the wrong direction. The only constant exposure we have is on the news, and it is never the good kind. To turn on channel 7 and hear the 24/7 news cycle cover stories of illegal immigration, shootings, and car chases, which I must admit are sometimes a shared guilty pleasure between my mom and me, non-Latinos think less of us and so do we. This is part of the not-so-fun side of the collective brown experience. But imagine how much better tv and movies would be if there were more movies like Coco, Encanto, and dare I say In the Heights on the silver screen?!

So, it is imperative to shatter that mirror we are forced to see our misaligned reflection in. Shackling into the stereotypical lens hurts everybody. It should not be painful to be a bi Latina woman growing up and not have anybody to connect to. Because at the end of the day, that is all we want. Luckily, I rebuilt my media mirror and chose my comfort in actresses wisely with the intention of feeling seen and heard properly. Stephanie Beatriz’s character Rosa Diaz from Brooklyn Nine-Nine helped me immensely in the coming out process because my experience was word-for-word the same as hers on the show and in real life as we both share the Catholic/Hispanic upbringing. Singer Kali Uchis makes me feel empowered to be Latina and own the spicy side of my identity while being blatantly authentic and never confining myself. Actress and comedian Aubrey Plaza never fails to take the words out of my mouth when sharing the most random details of her upbringing. For instance, we both went to an all-girls catholic high school, do not speak Spanish fluently, are half Latina and half white but connect with our Latina side more, and have a lighter complexion. Most importantly, Aubrey makes it a point to never play a Latina stereotype but simply exist as a professional in her craft.

Without these women I have to thank for helping me grow confidently in my Latinidad, my femineity, and benefit regarding my mental health, I would still be pissed at Ms. Malibu Barbie and would frankly like to speak to the manager of Mattel. I would not be able to validate my own heritage because I do not have brown skin or speak Spanish. I would view my skin as a separation between my family and me rather than skin that makes me part of my family. Because I am Latina, don’t get it twisted. So, anything and everything about me is Latina. The harmful stereotypes the US Media creates for everyone to absorb and make judgments on the most beautiful and brightest cultures is the biggest weapon they have. I am so proud to be a part of a “minority” because our power comes from being a majority with shared collective experiences ingrained in our identity. It is essential to shatter the way the media mirrors your unique reflection.