Editor’s Note: This is a continuation of our core conversation series, “Extraordinary Women Change the World.” Yesterday, Carmen Sognonvi shared the dangers of prestige to your meaningful work. Today, Abe Cajudo tells us about the glory of being a unicorn – an individual.
I got the email asking if I could contribute to the Women’s Empowerment Series and replied right away:
“Hi, I’m just checking if this email was meant for me. It’s about women’s empowerment.”
I seriously thought they were joking. My name is Abe Cajudo and the letters in my name are, unfortunately, BFF’s with Auto-Fill. I’ve been butt-dialed and butt-paged since the beginning of time and thought this was a stray butt-email. An accident. Plus, I’m a dude. So when I got a second email telling me that this wasn’t a mistake, that I was intentionally chosen, I replied,
“Then I’m flattered, thanks! Hahaha!”
But what I really meant was that I was terrified.
What the heck do I have to say about women’s empowerment?
I’ve asked myself this question hundreds of times now, reading every incredible post in the series and thinking, man…
WHAT THE HECK DO I HAVE TO SAY ABOUT WOMEN’S EMPOWERMENT?
What point-of-view do I have that AIN’T NO ONE ELSE HAD YET? (My inner monologue speaks in slang, despite my best efforts to formalize his English.) I thought long and hard about this for weeks and then all of a sudden it hits me. I know what I’m writing…
Picture in your mind’s eye, a man. A proud, American man that loves football and women and beer and action movies. Did he look anything like me? Odds are he did not. He was tall, conventionally handsome, chiseled and cleft, vanilla-flavored and dreamy like The Bachelor (Seasons 1-16 only). Or a superhero. A prince. Or any rich and powerful man in any history book that you read growing up. Don’t feel bad, I saw the same image for a very long time. THAT is what we have in common. THAT is why my empowerment and women’s empowerment and our journeys are connected.
“Hello ladies. Look at your man. Now back at me. Now back at your man. Now back to me. Sadly, he isn’t me, but if he stopped using ladies scented body wash and switched to Old Spice, he could smell like he’s me…” – Opening lines from the Old Spice commercial, one of the most successful viral videos in history.
Early Child Hood Development
I LOVE movies. I love watching them, making them, editing them, talking about them, and studying them as an art form. A medium of expression. The art of moving pictures that move people. My friends and family thought I was crazy when I told them I wanted to be a director.
“HA! There aren’t any Filipino-American** directors Abe!”
“Why don’t you study to become a doctor or an engineer? There’s no money in the arts for people like us.”
But I was good at the art. I saw the world and it’s people in full technicolor, ripe with beautiful stories to be picked out and shared and laughed at and cried upon. I could imagine future civilizations where women who looked like my mom and sister drove space chariots and stood side-by-side with men in control rooms defending the earth from deadly meteors. And then I would turn these dreams into something tangible. A doodle. A short film. A play. Make a video book report or design a poster. I created and told these stories because they were certainly better than the one I was in and the ones I was being fed in school and in the media. And maybe, just maybe, if one of my friends or family with no hope saw what I did, they would change their minds about what’s possible and impossible. For them and for me. That one day my stories might matter.
Manly Thoughts on Motherhood
I owe my creativity (and any success) in large part to my mother, who encouraged and empowered me with second-hand comics, stacks of Zoobooks, and incomplete Lego sets.
“Use your imagination,” she said. “You can do it.”
From the moment we’re born, the first story we’re told is most likely from a mother. “Sshhh, don’t cry little one. It’s going to be okay” they say. Women have been empowering men, Man, with stories from the start. The common saying that behind every successful man is a good woman is absolutely true. As men we believe women all the way until we don’t have to. Until we get away with our first untrue story we tell about you (a rumor from some other dude, hearsay we use to test the waters) and you let us off the hook. You’re right, you’re Light, but you bite your tongue and let us win because you’re better than us, not knowing that by making that choice everything changes. A unicorn dies and the world hangs in imbalance.
How Unicorns Are Born
I read an article once that Oprah didn’t have many role models growing up. She was born in 1954, and at the time the only character on TV that she could identify with was Buckwheat from The Little Rascals. It wasn’t until she was 10 and Diana Ross appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show that Oprah said,
“I want to be like THAT when I grow up!”
I remember my first unicorn sighting. His name was Ernie Reyes Jr. and he played Keno, the pizza delivery boy in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze. You better BELIEVE I wanted SO BAD to be a pizza delivery boy that hung out with giant talking turtles after seeing that movie!! I wanted to know everything I could about this Ernie, how I could be like him, what baseball cards he owned, and what he had to do to star in what to me was the coolest movie of all time. But of course his name was nowhere to be found in my local Dewey Decimal Drawers. I later found out that he was the little prince in Red Sonja, a badass martial artist/stunt double (he was inside the Donatello suit in the first Ninja Turtles), and the true crown prince of the imaginary kingdom of Patusan in Surf Ninjas. Ernie Reyes Jr. was f*cking REMARKABLE. I could not believe I saw a unicorn. I wanted him to be my best friend and have pizza parties and share step-by-step how he made it in Hollywood so I could too.
Who was your first unicorn?
Was it Amelia Earheart? Oprah? Marie Curie? Ada Lovelace? Jessica Sanchez? The fact that women and minorities, from a very young age, have to reach and spot these remarkable role models between lines of text, in a footnote at the back of a history book, as a 2-second mention during ____ History Month, or inside a giant latex turtle suit is reason enough to change the way we do things. The stories we share and the time/money/attention we give in support of these stories–in business and entertainment–are the responsibility of all of us who call ourselves world-changers.
What do you want the world of tomorrow to look like?
Nearly all of us celebrate the dream of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the global reach of the Internet, but what are we doing in our front-facing businesses to encourage diverse role models and ideas? For every Top 10 Most Successful list on the web there’s a young woman or person of color wondering if that world includes them. If they should even try their hand at entrepreneurship, or aerospace engineering, or public speaking. It’s 2012.
You shape the future with your shares, views, likes, and buys. (Click to tweet – thanks)
You can support guilty pleasures like The Bachelor(ette) that perpetuate the stereotypes so many generations fought to destroy, or you can ATTACK the glass ceiling and be the remarkable women and men of today, the flying unicorns of
science fiction tomorrow. The stage is set. You’re the director of this movie. Who will you cast in your videos/stock photos/leading roles? You could go with the easy, available choice. Or you could innovate and take a chance on the next Dorothy Dandridge. She’s a unicorn, but trust me, she’s out there.
About Abe: Abe Cajudo is a director, cross-discipline creative artist, and first-gen entrepreneur. His current fascinations include marketing, directing big ideas through video and design, and orchestrating kick-ass Kickstarter campaigns. You can connect with him as @AHAbraham on Twitter and check out his work at abecajudo.com.
**FUN FACTS! Abe’s American but his roots are in the Philippines. The native word for “women from the Philippines” is pilipinas, and the native word for “Philippines” is Pilipinas, making it a literal and figurative Motherland. Jessica Sanchez from American Idol is half-Filipina and was the runner-up to Season 11 winner Phillip Phillips, who is a pretty great singer but not Filipino from what I can tell.