What’s your story? Has anyone ever asked you that? As a public figure and someone who is regularly interviewed, I find that all (or at least most) roads lead back to one core question. We’re all trying to discover who we are, who someone else is, and why. So, as I go about my life, I’m beginning to collect and connect more and more memories that I realize have ultimately paved the road to adult Breegan and all I am. If you know even a little bit of my background, you know I’m no stranger to diversity. Today, I’ll share a bit more about my unique past and how it impacted the person you know as Breegan Jane, today.
The Neighborhood of Haight-Asbury
I must have been about 11 or 12 years old when my mom and I took a mini vacation to San Francisco. I’ve always loved traveling, so I can remember being excited about the time we’d get to spend together there. We visited the neighborhood of Haight-Ashbury. Haight-Ashbury got its name because of the intersection of Haight and Ashbury streets. Besides being the home of the “Summer of Love” in 1967, this district has a rich history. I’ve often said it was probably the Venice Beach before Venice Beach! In short, it’s always been a very inclusive neighborhood.
Just a Girl In a Dress
The year we visited this colorful district mom and I were on the hunt for something special. My friend was preparing for her bat mitzvah, and I wanted to wear a pretty dress. Mom and I visited a store in Haight-Ashbury, and I found the perfect one. It was the dress of my dreams! Picture little Breegan in her very first lace-lined, antique-inspired, Victorian masterpiece! It was the girliest of girly dresses, and I loved it. On the surface, it was a simple trip to find a dress. But little did I know, this experience would play a major role in further opening my mind to what acceptance and diversity meant to the world around me.
Our Experiences Shape Our Perspectives
It never surprises me when I voice an opinion or viewpoint that leaves others perplexed. I think differently about a lot of things, and I have never felt like that was a bad thing. Much of that comes from growing up in a unique situation, and the rest I attribute to experiences like that of Haight-Ashbury. I can recall everything about that shopping trip. There I was, an 11 year old biracial girl walking through the store with my white mother looking for a fancy dress in a neighborhood with one of the largest LGBTQ communities. I mean, it was unintended diversity from every angle, and yet, no one even thought twice about that. Perhaps my situation (black child, white parent) didn’t “make sense” at first glance, but I was accepted there. Everyone was kind and helpful, and I loved my experience there among all the lace, satin and frills.
An Unintentional Lesson on Humanity
We didn’t travel to San Francisco or Haight-Ashbury for a lesson in diversity. Neither my mom nor I considered the fact that we were in a predominantly gay area before we visited. I’m sure the people helping us didn’t care that we didn’t quite “match”, either. We were all just people living our lives, happily interacting with one another. When people wonder how Breegan became Breegan, these are the building blocks I reflect upon. On so many occasions I was immersed in worlds different from my own. My friend groups, working environments and more were full of individuals whose lives contrasted greatly from anything that felt familiar to me. And yet, it all felt…normal. These things were a part of my life from the very beginning. I credit that for my open minded outlook on so many things. I don’t know if that’s something everyone has been able to experience.
When I look back at that day in Haight Ashbury, I revel in how lovely I felt throughout the time we spent there. My brown skin and big curly hair weren’t shunned. I never felt like I was odd or peculiar. I only felt acceptance. Now I realize, that we were returning that same acceptance in a community that, at the time, probably felt more ostracized than we knew. The thing is, self-acceptance and self-expression weren’t new to me. I grew up in the modeling world, and I was often working with individuals who represented themselves in new and unique ways. It was always around me. So when I got older and started having conversations with others who equated different with perverse, I couldn’t understand the judgment. My experiences helped me develop compassion for communities that varied from my own.
I’ve found that when you’re a member of a minority-based community, you often find other minority-based communities to be quite welcoming. I didn’t have to pretend to be anything other than myself to be accepted. Members of this community have sometimes spent their lives wanting to be accepted for who they are, so they always have room for you to show up as your true self. To me, that’s what Pride is about. Be the best you, so they can be the best of who they are as well. It’s really a beautiful thing.
Raising Accepting Kids
My upbringing and even my young adult experiences have had a profound impact on the way I want to raise my sons. It even plays a role in my choice to live in Venice Beach, California. Our neighbors here are incredibly diverse. My kids come face to face with a different community on every block. I don’t always understand or agree with the same things as my neighbors, but I love that my children get the opportunity to see, befriend and interact with diverse cultures all the time.
Recently, my mom and I each took a day to spend one-on-one time with my boys. On my day, I took my oldest son to a DJ brunch, since he’s been enjoying learning how to DJ. It just happened to be Pride Week, and while there were rainbows everywhere, Kingsley had no idea what any of it meant. He simply enjoyed our time. As I took a cute photo of him in front of all the rainbows, I wondered if people were going to judge me for taking him there, or accuse me of projecting my ideas onto him. I quickly cleared my mind of those thoughts when I realized that this fun day wasn’t about others, and it wasn’t a statement about my child. We were just going to brunch in a neighborhood rich in diversity. That’s the way it should be. Maybe one day he will look back at our afternoon the way I do my Haight-Ashbury one. A mom can only hope!