Tired with how LGBT+ characters are portrayed in local media, Samantha Lee wanted to change the narrative and produced her first full-length film titled Baka Bukas. The commercial succes of the film has led to another coming of age film with queer characters titled Billie and Emma. Her work in film has sparked a lot of encouraging conversations about gender, confidence, and why, at the the end of the day, who you love shouldn’t really matter. For Samantha, it’s not just about telling stories. It’s being conscious that her work upholds progressive values, one of which is women should have their own agency and choice. She shares her thoughts with MEGA and Converse on what it means to be a woman today and why it’s perfectly ok to take space.
How would you define or describe being a girl or a woman in this day and age?
“I think being a girl or a woman in this day and age should actually be undefined because I think that’s what’s been the problem for so long is that we think that a woman should be quiet, we think that woman should sit with their legs together, we think women should dress and talk a certain way. When the truth is women can be whatever they want to be. So I’m just gonna say women in this day and age can only be defined by themselves.”
How does it help you reach where you are now?
“I wouldn’t say that here is the here that people think it is. I’m a writer and director who fights to have a better representation of women in local media. Because of that, you can see it as an advantage and a disadvantage. I mean, I still walk into a lot of meetings with different producers and they still ask me all these things like “Why is your women like that? Why do they have to be this way?” I think the common perception is that it’s easy but it’s actually not because a lot of the people that quote-unquote control the industry are still very traditional in their ways of thinking and they still think women should be a certain way. They should be demure, they should be “pakipot”. They should be obedient to what their parents say. They should be subversive to the men in their lives. And I think that’s not how women should be. Women should have control and agency over their own lives. I wouldn’t say I’ve gone far at all in what I try to do. In fact, I’m only in the very beginning stages.”
Can you tell us where did this thinking of yours start?
“I spent 14 years of my life going to an all-girl Catholic school and I attribute that experience a lot into the way that I think today because for the majority of the time we were taught that being a certain way is wrong like being gay is wrong, or being outspoken is wrong or being able to speak your mind is wrong and I think that who I am today is a direct reaction to growing up in that environment. I always say that a lot of my work is the kind of work I needed to see when I was a lot younger. My films are kind of like my love letter to myself encouraging her to just not be afraid of who she is and to stand up for what she thinks is right even if she gets in trouble for it sometimes.”
What makes you bold and unafraid to go beyond your limits?
“Growing up, I never saw a reflection of the person that I wanted to be in my local media. I couldn’t relate to any woman character that I saw on TV. I didn’t even think that I was gay because I didn’t see the kind of person that I could identify with when I was watching all these shows and it wasn’t until I was much older and I moved to another country and I was surrounded by girls who are just like me that I realized how important it is to see someone that you could relate to, that you could identify with ,that talk like you, that dress like you in your local cinema because films and TV shows and media in general – magazines even – they act as mirror that society holds to themselves and when a young girl sees me like I have short hair and I’m not with my girlfriend. It’s like “Hey, It’s ok for me to be like her because she’s gay and she’s in a magazine and people are okay with that. I just think that being myself and being so outspoken and being so bold about all of these different things that I believe in. It helps the younger me become the older me.”
What tips do you have to empower women to break through their own personal hindrances and seek out greatness?
“Personally, I think my biggest problem is that I always stand in my own way. Even if I’m this person who is so outspoken about LGBTQ+ rights and women’s rights, I’m still just this normal person who constantly doubts herself and is constantly saying I don’t think I can do this or I’m not good enough to do that on the inside. This is my 2019 resolution – I think women shouldn’t be afraid to take up their own space and to be unapologetic about taking up space. When you take up space, it makes other people uncomfortable because most often than not you’re often gonna hit someone when you’re in the process of doing that or get in someone’s way but that’s fine. We’ve been so submissive for so long that now is the time to be fearless and unapologetic about owning yourself and taking up space.”
This 2019, I’d like to see more girls ________________.
“This 2019, I’d like to see more girls be unafraid to take up space.”
Makeup by Bobbi Brown