“What are you?” It’s the question I’ve been asked most in my life.

Posted October 2, 2017
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Written by Melissa

My father is Portuguese-Brazilian and my mother is from the Philippines. They met in downtown Toronto at a Latin nightclub, which explains A LOT A in my life. More on that later….

My parents met, married, had two daughters-me then my sister, Rosanna – and bought a horse farm in Caledon, Ontario, where I spent most of my childhood into my 20s.

While my sister and I were raised in a deeply rural area, we spent many weekends and vacations with my Filipino cousins who lived in thriving urban and suburban centres. They were and are like our sisters. Their homes are where we got our pop culture education, listened to Madonna, Michael Jackson and Prince for the first times and learned to roll our kilts for high school. We took our city slicker lessons and applied them to our country schools and established our street cred.

The one thing I couldn’t navigate easily was my identity as a teen who was ethnically ambiguous. In a predominantly Caucasian community, my horse family with a Portuguese immigrant business owner and his Filipino wife stood out like a sore thumb. It wasn’t until high school where students scatter to the protection of “their kind”, their tribe that it became clear that I didn’t quite belong anywhere. Most of my friends from elementary school had done the same. It was mostly the Italians vs. Everybody. Don’t get me wrong; I love Italians so much that I’ve dated many and eventually married one, but in high school, you were either one of them or you weren’t. Lucky for me, I was part Portuguese. Close enough, I guess, according to them. Truth be told, their strong sense of identity did give me a sense of community, even though it meant me surpressing a part of myself to fit in.

It wasn’t until I entered university that I began to find my place in the world. The diverse student body made me realize that there were many tribes out there and I could find my own and even bounce around a few! So back to Latin clubs… My ride-or-die crew in university was an eclectic bunch of smart, sassy women who could cut a rug as well as they could crush an exam. Latin clubs were one of our favourite places to let loose. And let loose we did! We would Salsa and Merengue for three, four, even five hours straight once or twice a week. Did you know you can burn over 800 calories an hour spinning and twirling? Yes, dancing at the clubs became my sacred activity where identity didn’t matter, only how well you could dance. I lost myself on the dancefloor. (Note to self: good title for a memoir.)

It’s fitting, then, that I met my husband, Ryan, at a nightclub. Maro’s in Liberty Village. What we started there was so hot they had to shut the place down! We were engaged after 11 months of dating and married 10 months after that. I married in to an amazing family that is endlessly supportive of me, my marriage and my career.

And my daughter… She is a miracle in so many ways. We tried to conceive naturally and then via fertility treatments for two-and-a-half years to no avail. After deciding to take a break from baby-making to launch The Social, SURPRISE, we became pregnant! Marquesa was born early and precisely on the first day of my maternity leave. She was eager to make her entrance in to the world, but not before mama could finish work! That’s my girl! She was perfect in every way!

Today, I often get asked when I’m having another child and my answer is the same every time: we are very happy to be a family of three. We maintain a wonderful equilibrium in our very busy day-to-day lives and feel very full and complete. I can work hard in a career I love without feeling (too much) mommy guilt and my husband can do the same. We do not have a nanny or caregiver and instead choose to always have one parent at home if the other is working late. Grandparents step in when we need a date night. It takes a village!

Like most modern families, we juggle, we struggle and we have a hell of a lot of fun. In our family, we try not to take too much too seriously and lead with love in everything we do.

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