Filipina actresses

How Fil-Am actress Asia Jackson learned to define herself on her own terms

Jannelle So Productions
How Fil-Am actress Asia Jackson learned to define herself on her own terms
Asia Jackson, who has an Igorot mom and an African-American dad, tells her story of discovering and accepting her mixed identity

This story is published in partnership with SoJannelleTV, a magazine show about Filipinos in North America.

Asia Jackson understood early on that her parents looked different from one another. What she didn’t understand until later on was what it would mean for her.

The actress-entrepreneur Jackson, whose mother is a Filipina of Igorot descent and father is African-American, would experience colorism throughout her childhood, though it often manifested in different ways, she told Filipino-American media pioneer Jannelle So Perkins in an exclusive sit-down interview for So Jannelle TV, which airs US-wide on cable channels The Filipino Channel (TFC) and ANC, as well as on local Southern CA digital channel KNET 25.1.

Jackson’s father was in the US Air Force, so the family moved around a lot. At age 7, while living in Montana, Jackson remembers a white classmate referring to her as “that African-American girl.”

“I was like I don’t understand that because my dad’s African-American but my mom’s not. He didn’t mention that I was Asian. That was the first time that I realized the world would see me a certain way and it didn’t matter how I identified,” Jackson recalled, adding that the colorism didn’t end when she moved to Baguio City, Philippines. There, she was bullied for her darker skin color and the texture of her hair. When she moved to Houston, Texas, where the people around her were predominantly Black and Hispanic, she was viewed as an Asian person.

How Fil-Am actress Asia Jackson learned to define herself on her own terms

It wasn’t until Jackson was in her 20s that she was able to overcome the confusion and come to terms with her own unique identity.

“I literally just woke up one day when I was 19 or 20, and I was like, I am so tired of hating myself,” recalled Jackson, whose television credits include The Young and the Restless and Modern Family. “I just really sat down, I opened up my journal. I wrote down everything that was going on in my mind with myself because I didn’t talk to anyone about it. It was just bubbling up inside of me, so releasing it on paper helped out a lot.”

Journaling helped her process her feelings, as did affirmations. She would vocalize “I am Black, I am Asian” each day to become more comfortable with her identity. Now 28, Jackson said she has no problem speaking up and advocating for herself when people try to define her on their own terms.

She also has her parents in her corner. Her father supports her projects, often showing her acting reel to people he meets, while her mother openly discusses issues like mental health. The biggest lesson her mother taught her was to be “unapologetically myself,” which her mother demonstrated by embracing her Igorot identity despite the stereotypes and misconceptions perpetuated about indigenous people.

“I talk with my parents all the time about politics and social issues. We don’t agree all the time, but it’s very good to have that open relationship with my parents, and I’m able to speak to them like they’re my friends,” said Jackson.

Now, Jackson is expanding the conversation about race, identity, culture, and more with her new digital media platform, Sknfluencer. The platform offers articles, videos, and podcasts with people in different industries who have gone through similar struggles as herself.

Despite making great strides personally and professionally, Jackson hasn’t forgotten who she was and what she had been through. If she could share a message with her younger self, it would be one of hope and resilience.

“I would just tell her that it is okay to be who you are. You are who you are, and people are just going to have to accept it.” – Jannelle So Productions |

Rappler is partnering with Jannelle So Productions Inc (JSP), founded by Filipino-American pioneer and Los Angeles-based journalist Jannelle So, to publish video and written stories from SoJannelleTV about the journeys, successes, and challenges of Filipinos living in America.

Check out So Jannelle TV daily for stories that make you pause, reflect, and appreciate who we are and what we are as a people. 

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Replay on Saturdays, 7:30 pm PT / 10:30 pm ET on ANC North America
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