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Humans of Harker: Shades of culture

Olivia Esparza finds her heritage through dance and cosmetology

%E2%80%9CNow+with+people+breaking+out+of+their+own+molds%2C+I+want+to+gear+makeup+towards+basically+everyone.+I+want+to+have+something+that+starts+with+men+and+women%2C+anyone.+There%E2%80%99s+seven+billion+people+in+the+world.+How+can+you+have+fifteen+shades+for+all+of+them%3F%E2%80%9D+Olivia+Esparza+%2812%29+said.
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Humans of Harker: Shades of culture

“Now with people breaking out of their own molds, I want to gear makeup towards basically everyone. I want to have something that starts with men and women, anyone. There’s seven billion people in the world. How can you have fifteen shades for all of them?” Olivia Esparza (12) said.

“Now with people breaking out of their own molds, I want to gear makeup towards basically everyone. I want to have something that starts with men and women, anyone. There’s seven billion people in the world. How can you have fifteen shades for all of them?” Olivia Esparza (12) said.

Nilisha Baid

“Now with people breaking out of their own molds, I want to gear makeup towards basically everyone. I want to have something that starts with men and women, anyone. There’s seven billion people in the world. How can you have fifteen shades for all of them?” Olivia Esparza (12) said.

Nilisha Baid

Nilisha Baid

“Now with people breaking out of their own molds, I want to gear makeup towards basically everyone. I want to have something that starts with men and women, anyone. There’s seven billion people in the world. How can you have fifteen shades for all of them?” Olivia Esparza (12) said.

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As the lights dim, multi-colored stage lights silhouette a group of dancers. The lighting shifts and the music begins, and several faces are now visible, each carefully made-up eyelid and cheek illuminated. As the song’s the first notes echo throughout the theater, the dancers’ bodies and heads are synchronized in their motions and turns. With the song’s chorus, the lights turn to fully brighten each dancer and emphasize the sequins on their costume, which are almost blinding with every twist and step. The rosy glow seeps into only the first row of the audience, leaving the rest of the theater dark and simulating a sense of closeness for even the most distant viewers. The lights fix on Olivia Esparza (12), and her glittery eyelids and sparkling costume match the joy on her face.

Every year, Harker’s performers spend hours on their routines for the annual winter dance show. While the show appears cohesive to the audience, only the dancers and crew are familiar with the little parts that need to come together in order to successfully create the production. For Olivia, the dance show combines makeup, music and performance.

“I like to do makeup, and I think that ties into dance,” Olivia said. “I love music, and I choreograph [for] the dance show, so I have to pick songs and learn to count with them.”

In sixth grade, Olivia found herself with a growing interest in makeup. It was an exciting way for her to play with looks and colors, and now she is looking to pursue business and makeup in college.

“It was never really that I felt like I needed to cover something up,” she said. “It was just for fun and I liked the creativity of it.”

Olivia feels that makeup is something that applies to everyone, regardless of gender, race or sexuality.

“It’s not about clothing or being a certain size or way,” she said. “It’s very open of a community.”

Despite this acceptance, Olivia has found flaws with the industry, specifically the diversity of the models and the variety of skin tone products offered.

“The skin tone ranges, they’re not only just not dark enough, but also not light enough. Now with people breaking out of their own molds, I want to gear makeup towards basically everyone. I want to have something that starts with men and women, anyone,” she said. “There’s seven billion people in the world. How can you have 15 shades for all of them?”

Her tendency to want to include everyone has passed into other activities Olivia does, like spirit. Olivia is part of Harker’s spirit team, and she makes an effort to unit everyone under school pride.

“Olivia’s been hoping to get people into in different things, especially in spirit,” student activities coordinator Kerry Enzensperger said. “It doesn’t matter who they are—she’s working to get everyone involved.”

Olivia’s inclusivity has not gone unnoticed by her peers. Her close friend Cameron Zell (12) has observed that Olivia wants everyone to feel accepted in the makeup world.

“She has talked about wanting to be more open to anybody and everybody who wants to wear makeup and wanting to include good looks for them that match their personality and culture,” Cameron said. “She’s very proud of hers, and she wants everyone to be proud of their ancestry.”

As the only performing artist in a family full of visual artists, Olivia stands out, but she feels that makeup is one way she stays connected to her family and culture. Olivia’s mother, Pilar Aguero-Esparza, teaches art at Harker and exhibits her work outside of school.

“The makeup, the big earrings, the look all tied into my Latina culture, so I gravitated towards that as I got older,” Olivia said. “We’re a creative family, so I had this foundation which I made into the makeup and dance partnership.”

Connecting with her culture through makeup was an important step for Olivia, as finding a link to her roots was something she found difficult before high school.

With two Mexican parents and an entire family full of Spanish-speakers, Olivia often felt distanced by the fact that she could not speak Spanish well.

“I felt really out of place not speaking Spanish. People would joke about it, like ‘Oh, you’re Mexican but you don’t even speak Spanish,’” Olivia said. “I got angry and didn’t want to dive deep in the culture or the language.”

Although her skill with the language progressed slowly, she began to fall in love with the culture, something her friend Abhinav Joshi (12) noticed.

“It’s one of those things where she may not know the language, but she’s more tied to the culture than anyone else I know,” Abhinav said.

Despite her initial struggle with Spanish, Olivia found that immersing herself in culture helped her connect with and care about her background. Traveling to Costa Rica with a Harker group in middle school allowed her to recognize the depth of her culture, and an immersive exchange trip to Spain last summer furthered this understanding. After Costa Rica, when she traveled to Mexico with her parents and visited her family, Olivia had the opportunity to visit historic sites like Oaxaca, Mexico City and Morelia, all of which helped her dive into the culture and understand her Mexican identity.

“I went to Costa Rica with Harker, which opened my eyes to Spanish being a real thing outside of the classroom,” she said. “After that, I went to Mexico with my family, and that was eye-opening, like this is my family, this is where I’m from, this is what I am.”

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Humans of Harker: Shades of culture