Asia Jackson loves science fiction. Her middle name after all, Kaylar, is based off of a character from “Star Trek.” Her favorite TV series is “The Twilight Zone” and favorite movie is “Back to the Future.” But for Jackson, it’s about more than just the genre’s adventurous plot lines and futuristic aesthetic.
“To me, science fiction is about what humans will do when put into extraordinary situations,” she said during a recent Zoom call. “It’s about how we would act as a human race in response to that. I think there’s a lot of socio-political commentary in science fiction.”
Jackson is a Los Angeles-based actress who also works in the digital space and uses her social media platforms for activist work. As a Black-Filipina American, October is for posts about Filipino-American History Month. In 2016, she started a viral hashtag, #MagandangMorenx, to start a movement to challenge colorism and Eurocentric beauty standards. The phrase translates to “beautiful brown skin.”
“I think that colorism was such a taboo concept to talk about,” she said. “I think 2016 was a pivotal year for that conversation. I think I just created the hashtag during a time that people were ready to have that conversation.”
A global adolescence
Born in Moreno Valley, California, Jackson’s childhood as a military brat took her across the country around the world: Mississippi, Colorado, Virginia, Montana, Tokyo and the Philippines. When her dad retired from the military, the Jacksons moved in with family in Houston, Texas before then settling in Long Beach, California when she was in eighth grade. By age 11, Jackson had taught herself how to code.
“I’ve been on the internet for a very long time,” she explained.
On October 26, a panel by the Asian American Girl Club featured Jackson alongside other Filipino-American voices in media. While the discussion dove into being in the industry, much of the panel focused on the intersection of their identities and career paths. Each panelist looked back on their childhoods and relationships with their family, with Jackson opening up about the impact of moving around so much.
“I have been ostracized in every community I’ve ever been a part of,” she said. “It’s a really difficult way to grow up.”
When she was younger, Jackson just wrote this off as bullying. With age and reflection, she realized such childhood traumas were part of a larger systemic issue. She also grew tired of being told she was not enough— not Black enough, not Filipino enough, not enough to be an actor. Jackson then began to engage in identity work
“It’s brought me so much confidence,” she said. “I truly feel like being myself unapologetically is like a superpower.”
Power in identity
Through her identity work, Jackson has come to understand that though she was bullied for being dark-skinned in Asia, she also benefits from colorism as a light-skinned Black woman. What’s more, learning about sociological concepts like colorism gave her a certain sense of relief. Because there is a definitive term, she knew she was not alone in her experiences.
In one email, Jackson saw the true power of #MagandangMorenx. The person who wrote the email thanked her for starting the hashtag because it opened up the opportunity to see so many people proud of their brown skin. In fact, it stopped them from getting glutathione injections, a popular cosmetic procedure in the Philippines that lightens skin. While glutathione can be a beneficial antioxidant, it can be damaging in higher doses.
“This hashtag made this person change their mind about getting glutathione injections,” she said. “That definitely made me realize how powerful voice can be on the internet.”
Establishing a community
The internet has been instrumental in Jackson’s life trajectory. It harnessed her with enough skills, in both entertainment and the digital space, to leave college before finishing. More importantly, it’s given her a community. Growing up, she didn’t have many Black Asians to look up to, let alone Black Filipinos (aside from The Black Eyed Peas’ apl.de.ap). As a prominent content creator, there is not doubt Jackson is providing the sort of representation she sought as a kid.
“It definitely made me feel less alone, and I’m really glad that I’m able to share my experiences to make sure that other people who look like me aren’t alone either because there’s not a lot of us in [traditional] media.”
Though Jackson loves the creativity allowed by having her own YouTube channel, she looks forward to continuing in film and television. In particular, she wants to get into directing.
“It’s important for me to tell stories, especially of marginalized communities,” she explained. “That’s really, really important to me throughout all platforms. It’s one of my mission statements for my career.”