Leilani Momoisea and Katherine Lowe (Image: supplied)
Leilani Momoisea and Katherine Lowe (Image: supplied)

PartnersAugust 18, 2018

Leilani Momoisea and Katherine Lowe on racism, feminism and the fashion industry

Leilani Momoisea and Katherine Lowe (Image: supplied)
Leilani Momoisea and Katherine Lowe (Image: supplied)

The duo behind the fashion and lifestyle blog Rally discuss working in the fashion industry and life as women of colour in Aotearoa. 

There are some numbers that register immediately for anyone working in the fashion and modelling industries. 32, 24, 34. 5 ft 10 in. The ‘ideal’ measurements for models. Leilani Momoisea, a self-described “very shit model” never quite fit the mould, and never bothered much with trying. “I think they probably realise which girls are going to get a lot of work and which girls will get a job here and there. So I was probably a ‘here and there’ girl so they didn’t bother trying to get me down.”

“They” meaning the modelling agencies, somewhere Katherine Lowe now works. In this episode of the Venus Envy podcast, made in association with Are We There Yet?, the women’s suffrage and equality exhibition at Auckland Museum, she and Momoisea talk with Noelle McCarthy about the normalised beauty standards in the fashion industry and how they can affect young women. Lowe knows that how she handles conversations around size can change the outlook, and lives, of the young models at the agency where she works.

“I feel really protective. I look after development girls so they’re all young. They’re under eighteen, they’re new and I really only ever have that conversation if they say I want to go overseas, what do I have to do? Or if it’s stopping them from getting work, they went to a job and someone said ‘look, they don’t fit the clothes’ then it’s my job to tell them.

“But otherwise I don’t say anything. If they’re working and their measurements aren’t as good, I just leave it.”

These are the issues facing women young and old today. Tackling them is what feminism is all about. But for Momoisea (Sāmoan) and Lowe (Chinese), being a woman of colour means picking their battles.

“I definitely consider myself a feminist but it’s funny because I think I’m dealing more with racism than I am dealing with being a woman,” says Momoisea. “I think that’s what I have to deal with first and then I’ll get to the sexism stuff.”

The Venus Envy podcast: Download (right click to save), have a listen below, subscribe through iTunes (RSS feed) or read on for a transcription of the conversation with Leilani Momoisea and Katherine Lowe.

(Image: supplied)

Leilani Momoisea: I always felt like a very shit model…

Noelle McCarthy: Define shit model.

LM: I didn’t really book much, I was never the good option. My first agency was 62 Models and they never once measured me and I was always thankful for that, but I’ve never been a model size. I’ve always been a size ten or so. I don’t think I could have ever been very successful anyway with my size, but also I just don’t think I was very good.

I always used to find that so interesting though, when you read the interviews with Cindy Crawford or Kate Moss or other people talking about them and they’re going, ‘she’s just such a good model, she’s a really good model’. What’s in it? How do you do that? It’s almost Zoolander.

LM: Ngahuia [Williams] is an incredible model and it’s obvious because she books all the jobs but yeah, sometimes I’d think I’d be killing it and then I’d see some of the photos and I’d be like ‘oh gosh, that’s terrible’, and then people didn’t book me again. So I never got that follow up call.

But you’re still interested in the industry? I love looking at your blog Rally because it has that focus on the creative side of fashion.

LM: Yeah, I think what I’ve realized is I love people’s stories and I love other people allowing me to tell their stories. When I had a much lesser blog and I thought I was going to be super into the whole fashion thing and I started getting invited to things and going, I realised ‘oh, I’m actually not a social person.’ That really taught me about myself, to be okay with thinking ‘I actually don’t like talking to people.’

So it came to having an awkward moment at seven o’clock at a Specsavers event to realise you’re an introvert.

LM: Yeah yeah, and it’s funny because I always thought I wasn’t an introvert and then I realised that I was by going to all these events.

Did appearance matter to you when you were doing that? Did you want to look put together?

LM: Yeah I think I did, but I think I also realised that I just don’t have that ability. There’s just a certain look, and I feel like I always look messy. Sometimes, the way Katherine described it, maybe you’d overdress and I think I did that a couple of times; over-doing it and thinking ‘oh gosh, just next time don’t try because this is worse.’

Who do you guys get dressed for now? Who are you getting dressed for when you getting dressed?

LM: Comfort, I think. I still do think I want to look cool. I think if my husband says, ‘you look cool’, that makes me feel good, but I think mostly for myself and if I don’t feel uncomfortable all day then that’s great.

That’s it, that’s a win. What about you Katherine?

Katherine Lowe: Yeah, I’d agree. There’s a lot of times I would’ve been wearing something I didn’t suit or feel. I would’ve thought ‘this looks all good’ but I wanna go home and get changed. You get home, you take everything off and you put track pants on.

It’s almost like you’ve been stifled all day because you’ve been wearing this outfit. So, now I guess I’m quite a boring dresser. I feel as though people think ‘fashion, you’re going to have this outfit that everything’s black, white, navy or grey.’

The monochrome uniform.

KL: Yeah, quite simple and I don’t know if it’s getting older or just quitting the bug, but I care so much less. Who cares.

I can see the relief on your face when you’re saying that.

KL: At the time I was hanging out with fashion people and they had everything. They had all these cool things. I want to mention I remember someone saying to me, “fringes are bad on girls, you shouldn’t have that fringe. I think everyone’s face looks fat with a fringe.” Kind of near the start and I remember thinking like ‘oh my god.’ They also said ‘I hate singlets on girls’.

Just in general.

KL: Singlets and denim shorts.

LM: Isn’t it spaghetti strap singlets specifically? I remember that person saying that and I remember going ‘oh, I didn’t know that spaghetti straps were not allowed’.

KL: Yeah well, it’s a fashion person. I don’t think I would’ve worn a singlet or denim shorts for…

KL and LM: a long time.

This sounds kind of confronting if it’s a real-life person in your face telling you this, but is this not sort of an example of the messages we hear all the time anyway from different places? Whether it’s a magazine going what’s hot and what’s not, or a website or someone on the telly. The idea that from a certain point in our lives, as women – and true for men too but especially for women – we’re told how to look?

LM: Yeah, I think there might be less of that now? Or maybe it’s a thing about getting older that you learn to tune it out.

KL: I think you get tired or exhausted of having to worry about it so much. Part of me thinks ‘I’m old now, no-one cares about me anymore’ so it’s okay, almost. I think if I was twenty now I would be more worried about it.

You’ve talked on some of the highs and lows, on Rally, about ageing in a really interesting way and you talked about body image. One of the things you said was that you were going to stop vanity sizing – tell me about that.

KL: Oh yeah, in the last two months-ish.

What is it, first of all? I never knew what vanity sizing was.

KL: It’s just like, I’m a size eight but maybe you’re not. Maybe you’re halfway, maybe you should just buy a ten. It’s probably more just me than lots of other women but I told someone recently and she was like ‘are you serious?’. I had bought a swimsuit and I was probably between sizes and I’d gone down. It’s a crazy person thing to do.

It’s an attachment though, isn’t it? That idea of that size…

KL: I was always that small, yeah, and now I’m not.

As we change, our bodies change…

KL: It’s hard to let go. I look at old photos of me and I think, ‘oh god, when did this happen to me? Why are things not the same?” It’s vanity sizing.

Which is funny too because depending on the manufacturer, the label or wherever you get your clothes from, there’s no such thing as a standard size ten or a size eight is there? It can be different.

KL: I think it’s also from working at a model agency.

So, what’s that like in terms of sizes and your own awareness of your body?

KL: If I’m being completely honest, I do think about it, I did actually before even working at the agency, just being aware of fashion stuff. I remember when I started the blog I wasn’t really thinking about it that much but I did a little bit and I was always kind of small when I was in high school so I never really thought about it until I was faced with it a lot.

Models and other fashion people talking about losing weight and things like that. It’s not that I wasn’t aware of it but in my group of friends that was never really a thing. Not until I had the blog, and then working in the agency. I do feel quite conflicted a lot of the time because models need to be a sample size, they need to fit these clothes…

It’s a bottom line, isn’t it? You need to be a size in order to work.

KL: Yeah. If you want to work or you want to do a certain kind of work, this is what people are expecting and I either have to deliver that news or not.

What’s that conversation like? Do you have a way of having it?

KL: Personally, I don’t really know how other agencies deal with it, I feel really protective. I look after development girls so they’re all young. They’re under eighteen, they’re new and I really only ever have that conversation if they say I want to go overseas, what do I have to do? Or if it’s stopping them from getting work, they went to a job and someone said ‘look, they don’t fit the clothes’ then it’s my job to tell them.

But otherwise I don’t say anything. If they’re working and their measurements aren’t as good, I just leave it.

Which was kind of the experience that you had at 62, Leilani?

LM: Yeah, I think they probably realise which girls are going to get a lot of work and which girls will get a job here and there. So I was probably a ‘here and there’ girl so they didn’t bother trying to get me down.

Out of interest, is it getting smaller? Or has it stayed the same in the time you’ve been in the industry?

KL: It’s the same. Oh actually, the same for overseas, but in New Zealand I feel like people are more forgiving.

So, for a model who’s going to do well overseas, what are the ideal measurements?

KL: Around 5’10 in height and then 32, 24, 34 like a 34 in the widest part of your hip which is stupid. It’s small, it’s like a six.

It’s smaller than an 8 isn’t it?

KL: It’s smaller than a NZ 8, yeah. But then, I mean there are people who are 35 and 36 who work, it’s all in how you carry it. It’s a hard conversation and I feel really responsible, so I don’t often have it unless someone’s like ‘I’m dying to be a model, I have to be a model, tell me what I have to do.’

It wasn’t until I went to university that I remember hearing about the male gaze, the male gaze in films or the male gaze in books. When you talk about those measurements in the fashion industry, I grew up believing what I was told which is that the clothes look better on women who are that size and they hang better and you can put a sample size on them.

How much of that do you think is up for interrogation? How much of that do you think could be reassessed? Does it have to be like that to make a better photo or to make a better catwalk show or is it about what we decide our norms are?

LM: It’s funny when you say the male gaze, I don’t know any dudes who are super into that size. I listen to lots of rap and rap preferences are very different to model preferences. I think this is when social media and the Instagram models, and maybe the modelling industry will just always be its own thing, but modelling agencies now have social influencer sections where they’ll use people who aren’t tall, who aren’t super skinny and people using social media to redefine beauty norms, which may still not necessarily be super inclusive, it’s just a different kind of norm now. But I think there are more representations of beauty where people can make money on Instagram that way.

My first reaction is ‘that’s cool’.

LM: Yeah no, I’m saying that’s a good thing.

I suppose underneath all that, both of you would be in a better position than most people because of your own experience to deconstruct what you’re seeing and go ‘how much of that is created?’ when you’re scrolling through your feed.

LM: I assume most people, if they have over a certain amount of followers and they tag a brand I just immediately assume they either got it sent for free or they’re getting paid to do it; that’s my immediate thought. Or they’re trying to get stuff sent to them for free.

What do you think about that, Katherine? Coming from your own experience.

KL: It doesn’t really bother me, if I think it’s cool, I think it’s cool. I don’t really follow that many of those ‘true’ influencers so I don’t see heaps of it.

It’s quite hectic isn’t it? There’s a lot of content.

KL: It’s all the same. It feels like all the photos are the same.

LM: Mmm, all the same poses.

KL: The same poses, same kind of filter as well, same everything.

It’s a cultural thing, isn’t it? It’s an artefact. It’s a cultural artefact, you think in a hundred years time digital archeologists will go back and look and say, ‘that was of 2018.’

LM: Those eyebrows. Very 2018.

KL: Yeah, a very specific kind of style.

But it doesn’t feel to me that you guys are oppressed by trends in any way.

LM: No, but I think if people can make money that way then make it.

MeToo. I want to ask you guys about MeToo. What do you think about the movement? Do you feel that it’s far away from us or that it’s a present thing in NZ?

LM: I think it’s a present thing bubbling under the surface and people are telling their stories the way they want them to be told. We haven’t had that Harvey Weinstein moment but I wonder if, from previous cases, people just learn that maybe they don’t want to go through that so they’ll tell who they feel they need to tell and that’s enough for them. Maybe they just need to make it public in their own way.

I know for me working on that Pavement story at The Spinoff was a moment when I realised that those power dynamics were…

KL: They’re real.

Real, yeah that’s exactly it, and that’s not necessarily something you can take to court or you can go to the police about but they are real.

LM: Yeah. It’s power dynamics, it’s social norms and I wonder if some of it’s even being Kiwi, we’re even less inclined to speak up – I don’t know if that’s true or not. When you’re a woman, you know that you could just get beaten up or something.

Do you? Did you grow up knowing that? Was there a moment when you went ‘shit, I could get beaten up, I could get raped, I could be overpowered?’

KL and LM: Yes.

KL: Well, doesn’t every woman think that? When you go out, my brother has no issues, but I’m older than my brother and I’d always get ‘what time are you gonna be back? be careful.’ My dad still says it now. ‘Do you need me to take you back to your car after we have dinner?’ even. It’s just in the back of your mind all the time. Any kind of rape scene in a movie or any TV show is really hard for me to watch.

I started working out and my one goal was to be fit enough and strong enough to get away from someone who’s trying to attack me. I told the trainer and she thought it was so funny because she asked ‘why do you want to train?’ and I said ‘to be able to get away from somebody who was trying to kill me or attack me.’ I don’t know if that’s always been inside or if everybody feels like that or if it’s just me.

LM: Well yeah, you’re definitely conditioned to think that way and I don’t think I’ve personally had moments where I’ve felt super unsafe but I do think about it. What if I had put up a fight?

Or what if you had challenged somebody?

LM: Would I, could I have been strong enough? Probably not.

How does culture play into it? Into how you see yourself as a woman or how you think you should behave as a woman.

LM: There’s culture and there’s religion as well. So for me, my parents are both very religious so there was Sāmoan culture and then on top of that was a super ‘sex is something you do when you’re married’ type thing. I think that tells you all you need to know about having sex before marriage, how you’re gonna feel about yourself when you’ve been told you’re gonna go to hell if you do it.

Years of shame just waiting for you.

LM: Yeah, so…

So sexual satisfaction is something else.

LM: Yeah, gotta go repent for my sins, you know. I follow heaps of young women on Twitter and I feel super stoked about how open they are about their sexuality and how outspoken they are about being sexual beings and how that doesn’t make them sluts and I get super stoked for them, like ‘ah that would’ve been nice.’ I mean that’s so great, that makes me feel like there’s progress because that’s definitely not how I felt when I was their age.

KL: Nadia and I had dinner with two women who would’ve been 25 years old and they were talking about all this kind of stuff, their sex lives, just everything in a really normal, funny kind of way. When we left it I remember I was talking to you about it, Lani, and I thought, ‘imagine if.’ That would’ve never happened to me.

I don’t think I would’ve even really told my friends if I had a one night stand or anything like that because I wouldn’t want them to think I was a terrible person or anything. But they were so open and happy and didn’t feel any feels about it, it just was.

I remember seeing the term ‘slut shaming’ for the first time and I was like what? You can actually call someone out for calling you a slut? Because when I was growing up that was the end of the conversation. If someone called you a slut you would just have to go and get in a hole somewhere and never, ever come out.

In terms of MeToo and that movement, there’s been a lot of noise generated. There’s been a lot of talks, there’s been a lot of op-eds and one of the criticisms is that it’s mostly white women talking and marching and organising and not so much women of colour and that the movement isn’t necessarily, spreading out or lifting everybody up equally. What do you guys think about that? Again, I know New Zealand’s kind of far away, I’m thinking about America in particular, but that’s part of the identity politics area that we live in now. Women are sex positive but we’re also more positive and proud of who we are and where we come from and our cultural backgrounds. How does your cultural background, your Sāmoan self, intersect with your feminism, Lani?

LM: I don’t know if it’s even a cultural thing because I feel like I don’t know how, I’m not sure how other people view Sāmoan women, but I feel like Sāmoan women are viewed as very strong women, and I think maybe if women see themselves as lesser to men I wonder if that again might be a religious thing? Colonisation?

What about racism? When we interviewed you for that immigration podcast, you were talking about your mum’s house being raided during the dawn raid, so when you think of lack of equality between men and women you put a lived experience of racism on top of that, what’s that like? How does that impact that awareness of a lack of gender equality?

LM: There’s that stat that you see all the time that men make this much, white women make this much and then Pacific Island women and Māori women are on the bottom level, so I’m aware on that level. I know that racism exists and growing up with those kinds of stories, that sticks with me and that’s been my outlook on things.

KL: I put up a thing – it was kind of funny, but also true, it was a photo of me and my boyfriend, who’s white, and the caption was something about how I’d been accepted on Airbnb now that that was my profile picture.

It’s true, not that I was never accepted on Airbnb prior, but it’s quite a lot easier. Maybe it’s because it’s a couple, but he’s white and everyone loves him.

You’re a very good looking couple so maybe it’s that?

KL: Yeah, maybe it’s that, but no. I got quite a few messages after that, DM’s on my Instagram saying ‘this is so true, my boyfriend’s white’ all these kind of related experiences. It’s quite strange for me because I’m Chinese but I was born here and I didn’t think I was Chinese when I was a kid.

Is there explicitly Chinese baggage around gender that you carry?

KL: I think Chinese people need to be quiet, generally. I’m sure my grandparents would say ‘don’t make a fuss’ that kind of thing. ‘Don’t make a fuss. Don’t talk…’

Which is a first generation immigrant ethos as well.

KL: Yeah I guess, yeah.

Keep your head down, work hard.

KL: Work hard, get a good job, don’t make a fuss.

LM: I think for brown women it’s that you don’t feel like you’re heard until a white person says exactly the same thing that you’ve been saying for years and then it’s all of a sudden a revelation, and you’re thinking ‘we’ve been saying this shit for years’.

Can you think of an example? Is it about feminism in general?

LM: Yeah. I think feminism in general, not being listened to and then going ‘oh, you guys are like the angry brown women’ and it’s like well, the only reason we’re angry is because we’re saying this and you’re not listening to us and you’re either completely ignoring us and just doing your own thing or you’ll corrupt our ideas and pretend it’s inclusivity but you haven’t really included us.

That is really interesting and it makes me feel nervous because I go, ‘oh yeah you’re blundering and you’re trying to have this conversation’, and this is another conversation that I’m so grateful to millennial women for because they talk about emotional labour. When I was working with a millennial woman recently and she said, ‘I know you’re doing a lot of emotional labour on this’ and ‘I was like shit, that is a fantastic acknowledgement’.

I’ve never given that to anyone else and now I’m becoming more aware with my Māori friends and Pasifika friends, well what am I putting on you? What am I asking you to do for me so that I might feel a bit better or more comfortable? Do you feel that?

KL: It’s so exhausting. You have to explain to white people why something’s racist…

LM: Why something’s racist when it’s just obviously blatantly racist.

KL: Yeah so it’s not really about feminism, it’s about ‘why do I have to be that’, and you don’t want to be that guy because you just cause an issue all the time.

LM: I definitely consider myself a feminist but it’s funny because I think I’m dealing more with racism than I am dealing with being a woman. I think that’s what I have to deal with first and then I’ll get to the sexism stuff.

KL: It’s almost like you’re so used to it. I don’t expect much from people. I kind of just expect, I kind of expect everybody’s racist, almost.

LM: Yeah until a nice surprise.

Does that fit in with what we’re learning about unconscious bias? All of the studies and information that show, actually, we are hard-wired to give preferential treatment to people who look the same as us and people who don’t look like us have to work a bit harder. Then you add colonialism on top of that and you add layers of the capitalist system and social injustice and all the rest of it. But I suppose knowing the reasons why doesn’t matter, really. But that’s fascinating that you say that Katherine, that on the daily that’s the experience.

KL: On the daily. But you would never call out everyone or say anything to everyone who is racist or you wouldn’t go anywhere. You’d just be sitting there explaining to people all day and then I think you almost just get into an argument because people don’t like the word racist.

LM: Yes no, they’re very scared of it.

KL: They just go ‘woah, woah, woah, woah, woah, no I’m not racist, I made a joke but I’m not racist.’ I think but what if it’s a racist joke? ‘Yeah but I’m not a racist.’ They’re just terrified of the word racist.

LM: Which I think is the reason why it’s hard for people to stop being racist because they’re so defensive. ‘I’m not a racist’, well, yeah you are and maybe if you recognise that you could do something about it… It’s not, we’re not telling you to go to hell.

KL: Yeah, sometimes it’s your friends.

LM: Exactly.

KL: It’s often your friends.

But are they stacked up on top of each other? I’m really interested in what you were saying, Lani about almost triaging the ‘ists.’ ‘I’ll get to sexism after I’ve dealt with racism but there’s only twenty-four hours in the day.’

LM: I guess within my immediate friend group I don’t find myself dealing with sexism that much and the industry I work in is majority women and I feel like we’re quite supportive of each other. I was a reporter for many years and it’s all women and then management, it’s all men.

The exhibition at the museum celebrates and marks 125 years since Kate Sheppard secured votes for women, so 125 years of NZ leading the world. Nobody else was doing what NZ was doing. We were a world-leader in terms of gender equality. 125 years on and the exhibition’s called ‘Are We There Yet?’. What do you reckon? Are we there yet?

LM and KL: No.

What does getting there look like, do you think? How will we know when we’re there?

KL: Imagine if you got paid as much as the guy sitting next to you. I don’t know why that’s so hard. Someone I know, who’s also not white and a woman said to me one time ‘well if the man does a better job then he should get paid more’.

LM: When people stop saying that, we might be closer.

KL: Yeah, I just thought ‘what? This is crazy’. She’s a woman and she’s not white. This makes no sense to me.

Is pay big for you, Lani? Is it about money, is it about respect as well?

LM: Yeah respect is a big one and I feel like the people who give me the least respect are men.

How does that play out? How do you see that?

LM: Just the way they talk to me, the way I might be talking to them and they don’t hear me. Thinking ‘oh, you’ve just learnt how to tune out a woman’s voice’. Yeah, the more I’ve had to deal with men the more I’ve felt disrespected and that’s something I’ve really noticed.

And how do you deal with it? What do you do? I mean, I even hate asking you this because it’s putting it back on you, but I don’t have all of them in the room, I’d ask all of them if they were here.

LM: I’ll message Kath or I’ll message my friends or my husband and I’ll just rage in the message section, and then I’ll be professional. That’s definitely something I noticed. For me respect is a big thing and maybe I need to start learning to stop take it so personally because I know I do take things personal, but also, when you’re feeling disrespected, how do you not take that personally?

Money, for me, is not that important. Is that a woman thing? I would rather enjoy my job and be satisfied with my job and feel like I’m being creatively fulfilled. If I had that I would take less money, but I do wonder is that a woman thing? I don’t know, but maybe the man would have all that and take the money too. I don’t know.

KL: They would, for sure. The respect thing is a thing because we’ve talked about this before. I’ve had a client speak to me in a way there’s no way in hell that he would ever speak to my boss, who’s a guy, or a booker that was male.

LM: Threatening too, right?

KL: Oh, my gosh, yeah. Kind of threatening and kind of like, maybe he knows that I can’t really do anything about it. It’s so unprofessional as well. I just don’t know if that’s just the way that he is or that’s just to me because he knows that I’m a woman. What, really, am I going to do about it? Even pushing back slightly, you know that they’re already thinking ‘you’re a crazy woman, you’re a crazy bitch’ basically. You’re not just sticking up for the models or anything, you’re not just doing your job…

LM: You’re not being assertive, you’re being hysterical.

KL: You’re not being assertive, you’re being crazy. Like a psycho, ‘oh she’s such a psycho, she sent me this message back’.

And what do you do? How do you cope?

KL: What did I do? I think I just didn’t reply. Lani said ‘don’t reply, don’t reply’. It’s very frustrating, you know. But what can you do, really?

LM: Listening to that I’m thinking is it because there’s no threat of violence? Do men treat men better because they think they’re going to get a hiding if they don’t? Do you know what I mean? Do they think they can talk to us because we can’t beat them up? Just hearing that, is there a physical violence thing? I don’t know.

KL: I mean nothing will come of it.

LM: Yeah, nothing will come of it.

Are you hopeful? Are you hopeful for the future? Do you think if I was interviewing your daughters in, I don’t know, in fifty years’ time, would they have the same problems? Do you think things will change or things can change?

KL: What’d you say again? Fifty years…

LM: If climate change hasn’t gotten us all.

Are we all going to be nicer to each other?

LM: If the ice caps haven’t melted.

As we band together roaming the desolate streets for what food sources remain.

KL: Sometimes do you feel like things have changed? You go on Twitter and it’s all your friends but it’s just a bubble and then you step outside or you read the comments section in one place and then you’re thinking, ‘oh no, heaps of people think the other way. I’m wrong, nothing’s changing.’

LM: Would we have had more hope a couple years ago?

Did you? Because you were younger.

LM: Younger or…it feels a very strange time at the moment.

KL: I will say I never really thought about racism, or would have spoken about it or anything like that, even like five years ago, really.

LM: Do you think the tolerance for talking about racism is higher?

KL and LM: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

KL: I remember I did one post on my blog talking about how when I was younger I wished I was white and my mum also told me that she had wished that she was white, it would’ve just been easier and I was always thinking, oh, every Chinese person wishes they were white, it just is.

I wrote about it and people were so angry in the comments, people were giving me so much shit about it and I thought ‘wow, maybe you can’t talk about stuff like this’. I remember thinking ‘this is very light, the way I’m talking about it’. I found it funny and everything.

LM: Oh, wait till I tell you the real stuff.

I’ll tell you a sad story, wait hang on.

KL: But now I think, I think you can. Well in our circle, you can.

LM: Yeah, I think we have surrounded ourselves, even online, with kind, nice people, which helps because the real world is not that nice.

KL: I had a fifteen-year-old with me this week, I was chaperoning a model and I thought something she said was really wow. It was about when people ask you where you’re from, and she said ‘but you’re from New Zealand’ and I always think that teenagers aren’t really that aware of that stuff and I thought ‘oh, this is great, yes.’

LM: That’s so lovely. Actually, yeah when you’re asking ‘do we have hope?’, that’s what gives me hope. Seeing all the younger people I follow and their attitudes on things and how much less tolerant they are of racism and sexism and homophobia and transphobia and all that stuff. I’m learning from them all the time and I think that’s really cool. The children and the teenagers are our future.

This content is brought to you by the Auckland Museum. On now, Are We There Yet? Women and Equality in Aotearoa celebrates the 125th anniversary of women’s suffrage in Aotearoa – but asks how far has New Zealand really come since women gained the vote? On display at the Auckland War Memorial Museum until Wednesday 31 October.

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