Growing up in Texas, all I wanted to be was an “all-American girl" with blond hair and blue eyes. That’s what I thought looked beautiful. I got colored contacts, bright highlights and styled myself until I basically looked like a different person when I stared in the mirror.
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I’m Indian and everything about that heritage has shaped me into the person I am today. I’m so proud of that fact, but, if I'm being honest, I wasn’t always. I actually hated it when I was younger. I even remember telling people that I was only half-Indian because I thought that it made me sound cool. I would say my middle name was "Maya" when, in reality, I don’t even have a middle name.
Looking back on it all, I feel so silly. Why was I ashamed of who I was? If I really think about, I think it goes back to what the American standard of beauty is (or at least what I thought it was). I felt like the only way that I could fit in was if I looked like everyone that I was surrounded by.
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Now that I’m older, I realize that I am that "all-American girl" exactly as I look right now. I think a really pivotal moment for me was doing a beauty segment on TODAY and hearing Kathie Lee and Hoda chant my name with enthusiasm on national television. I finally realized that my individuality is the best part about me, and that feeling is what inspired my #BeautyIs video.
I want kids growing up now to realize that being different is awesome. Being uniquely yourself is actually the best thing in the world!
Your culture and upbringing is going to make you stand out, so embrace who you are because that person is beautiful ... black hair, brown eyes and all. If my #BeautyIs video helps even one person realize their beauty, then I know it has served its purpose.