I'm through accepting limits 'cause someone says they're so.
Some things I cannot change but till I try I'll never know.
In Latin American countries like Nicaragua, women spend an average of 3 hours more per day than men doing unpaid labor. That’s over 1,000 hours more than men each year. 1,000 hours! And while the numbers may vary from country to country, this statistic holds true all over the world.
As I spend time in rural communities like Villa Catalina here in Chinandega, Nicaragua, it is normal for me to see kids out in the street playing baseball, soccer, marbles or any other fun game to pass the time. But the vast majority of these kids I see playing are boys. In fact, it’s so rare for me to see girls playing sports that when it does happen, it makes my heart soar. I stop and cheer a little bit for them.
Where are all the girls, you ask? Well, sometimes I see them on the sidelines keeping an eye on their little brothers or sisters, or sometimes I see them heading off to the market with their moms, but mostly, they are at home. They are cooking, cleaning, washing clothes or doing anything else that is expected of them. This is the cultural norm here in Nicaragua and it has been for a very long time.
But there are moments when I catch glimpses of girls defying the odds.
Carolina is a 10 year-old girl who loves to go to school, dance and play with her two best friends who live right next door. I met Carolina about a year ago when we were doing a children's show with Teatro Catalina. I was looking for young kids to participate and she was one of the first to volunteer. Almost immediately, I noticed something special in Carolina. She was confident and sure of herself. She wasn't afraid to stand up and read in front of others and she was the first one to crack jokes and make all of her friends giggle.
When I started thinking about this first photo in our series, I very quickly thought of Carolina. I needed an Elphaba. I needed someone who exuded confidence and strength, someone with a strong-will. I needed someone who could embody this symbol of hope for girls all over the world. And I believe Carolina did just that.
I absolutely love how our photographer, Edgard Buenas, captured the vision of this photograph. Having never seen Wicked himself, Edgard watched Idina Menzel's performance of "Defying Gravity" on Youtube and spent hours looking through photographs of this particular moment from the show. Anyone who has seen Wicked knows how powerful this moment is (when I first saw this show, it literally took my breath away). This is the moment when Elphaba realizes the power that she has within herself. She is ready to break free from the world's standards and become the person she was meant to be. She is no longer willing to be silent and she is ready to take a stand for what she believes in.
The two most important elements for me in this picture were the house and the broom. I knew, early on, that I wanted a house to be the backdrop for this photo. I wanted to show Carolina on the outside of the house as if to show that she is no longer confined to it. And the way that Edgard captured the angle almost makes it seem like she is taking flight. We searched Villa Catalina for the perfect green house and at one point during our shoot, I looked over to see Edgard taking a leaf from a mango tree and wrapping it around his flash. The most inventive green filter I've ever seen!
The broom was the crux of the photo for me. Here in Nicaragua, a broom is something that keeps a girl inside her house. The wind blows, the dust settles, and the broom must be used to sweep it away. It is a never-ending cycle. In the show, though, Elphaba uses the broom to escape...to fly. It is a symbol of freedom. A symbol of hope.
As we were doing this shoot, I had the opportunity to speak with Carolina's mother. I told her about what we were trying to accomplish through this project and asked her how she felt about the state of women's rights in Nicaragua. She told me about how difficult life is for women and how it often times saddens her to see young girls working so hard. She told me how she wanted something different for Carolina and explained to me that she thought it was important for Carolina to have time to pursue the things she enjoys. She told me that when Carolina is happy it makes her happy.
There is hope and things are changing, even though it may seem slow at times. But we must keep fighting and striving and moving forward. We must not accept the limits that are placed on us. We must come together, women and men, to change the future for girls like Carolina. We must give them every opportunity to defy gravity.
Photo Cred: Edgard Buenas
Go behind-the-scenes of our Wicked-inspired photo!