• Marías at Sampaguitas

Filipinx American Spotlight: Interview with Chloe-Lynn Ordoñez

You are a designer. When did you first realize your affinity for designing? What is your

“origin” story?

I was never good at studying. I used to get scolded verbally and physically when I

admitted I didn’t understand my math homework. As a youth, I was constantly met with

the threat of staying back a grade because I couldn’t produce good grades, my parents

were frustrated with me, as they of course wanted me to be a nurse.


I took an advertising class by chance in my senior year of high school, I needed the

credits. Previously, I had been collecting club flyers from the promoters that used to

sneak me into clubs as a teenager. During this class, I was taught the classical way of

creating a flyer with just an xacto knife, blue pencil, ruler, and xerox machine. I was

enamoured with the detail-oriented, laborious process from start to finish.


When it came time for college, I only applied to a community college that wasn’t even in

my county and lazily missed the registration deadline. My parents were fed up with me.

By the following semester, I made sure to register on time even though I had no clue

what I wanted to do with myself. I spoke to a counselor and admitted I hadn’t had any

interest in anything in particular. They suggested I take a few humanities courses until I

figured it out.


I figured it out after my first official semester — I wanted to be a graphic designer. I

wanted to make things that visually conveyed a message. I came to find this out in a

Photography class — which I failed (haha). Our final project was to use Photoshop (this

is back in 1999) to create a collage. I was using all the skills I had learned in my

advertising class the year prior, but applied it digitally and it gave me so many more

options in getting more creative. The following semester I had registered my major as

graphic design with a minor in web design.



Can you tell us about your projects? Where can we see your works?

Honestly, my projects are all over the place. I own my own design studio in which I

provide brand styling, print and digital design, web design, and design

direction/consultations. My current clients hail from a variety of industries: DJs, bakers,

singers, event coordinators, car detailers, wedding coordinators, etc.

In addition to my client work, I am working on my own personal projects:

Commonwealth of Jersey City, an online directory of Jersey City creatives to promote

local work and creating reciprocal connections.


Mga Bagay, a transparent and vulnerable project revisiting the memories of my family’s

past in order to preserve their stories, bringing awareness to what I am learning about

the disconnect between Filpinos and mental health through my family life now (my

father has dementia and my mother, a breast cancer survivor, is constantly between

burning out and feeilng guilty). I seek to learn, be educated, and find my purpose in

creating so that I can share it the FIl-Am community.


Merienda, a Fil-Am Family Day Party that takes all the elements from our traditional

family parties — the food, the music, the mahjong, the dancing, the talking — and puts

them into a new space with the intention to learn, share, educate, and just have a good

time. It’s open to all ages and backgrounds, and we use it as a platform to support

Fil-Am and Filipinx creatives and businesses.



3. Which is your favorite genre to read?

Since I am primarily a visual person, I enjoy books with a lot of pictures. My collection

includes cookbooks, Japanese books about interior design, design books on streetwear

and flyers, and design books. I will occasionally read self-help books about developing

my business or improving my design skills. I feel like I should also tell you that I collect

Japanese fashion magazines — I use them for reference and inspiration. The next two

books on my to read list are: Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert and How To Be Alone by

Lane Moore.



4. Do you feel that social media has helped artists? Why or why not? If so, what platform do

you believe has helped you the most with marketing yourself?

Social media can go both ways — it can make or break an artist. For the most part, I

think it helps artists. I see social media as something really temporary, you see what is

presented to you at that moment and it’s all based on an algorithm that I still can’t figure

out.


Instagram is probably the only platform that’s helped me with marketing myself. I’ve

tried it all, from being abstract about what I do at 9PM to sharing a personal story at

9AM. Both ways have either catapulted my audience to pay attention or barely got 10

likes. The only thing I’ve learned from marketing my work on Instagram is that if it’s

hyped up through shares and engagement, it can pick up quickly. Not really about that

type of work.



How do you define being Filipinx American for yourself?

I don’t define being Filipinx American — And I’m not entirely sure I would be able to. My

entire life has been fluctuating between different levels of understanding how I connect to my

heritage (and how I don’t).



What would you change about the mainstream perception of Filipinx Americans?

I think the mainstream perception of Filipinx Americans usually revolves around food or being a nurse. I’d love for people to know that Filipinx Americans are generally hard workers who are apparent assets across all the industries, whether it be music, art, health, etc.



How would you encourage more involvement of Filipinx American with politics/events in

the Philippines?

I wouldn’t. I don’t know much about the politics and events in the Philippines, just what I read in the news.



Being Filipinx enough is a concern shared with many Filipinx Americans. Do you feel

this? If so, how do you combat this feeling of inadequacy?

I absolutely feel this. I’m not entirely sure if I combat it but I definitely have come to understand that MOST Filipinx Americans don’t feel Filipinx enough — we’re all human and a product of not only our surroundings, but our upbringing. Personally, I was told that I was American growing up. It was almost said to me as a compliment and as a child, I hated that it differentiated me from those who were telling me so (my family).


I was told I was American, but I always left the house smelling like ulam, came home to sinigang for dinner, and was scolded in Bisaya. I was always confused growing up and embraced the culture through finding other Fil-Ams in school or over the internet — but was never given any true knowledge of my heritage or roots. Just other Filipinx American kids growing up in America to Filipinx parents vying for a better life.



Did you always embrace your culture? If so, who taught you? If not, what inspired this

change?

I didn’t know the culture growing up. The only exposure I received as a child to being Filipinx

and Filipinx American was from family parties and being told to play with my cousins who

weren’t really my cousins.


I embraced the Filipinx American culture through the Aol era — chat rooms like

MaNiLaxMaNiLa and PiNoYPiNay introduced me to Fil-Ams in California and New York.


Websites like Xanga and Asian Avenue helped me shape who I was by giving me the ability to

document what was molding me into who I was then and giving others the ability to see daily

blurbs or photos of a life that depicted hanging out with only Filipinx people... I’ve warmly

named that time my “Pinay Pride” years.


FIND Conferences, bowling nights, AOL meetups at the mall, and nightlife that featured Filipinx DJs and promoters was the culture I grew up with.



What do you know about your family history?

Not much. If I don’t ask, they won’t tell.



Do you speak a Filipinx language? If so, which one? Does this knowledge influence your

work?

No I don’t. And it's frustrating now that both my parents are elderly and communicate with me

more in bisaya or tagalog.



What are your thoughts on learning a Filipinx language as a Filipinx American? Is it

necessary to you? Why or why not?

I think learning a dialect would be beneficial to everyone. It’s absolutely necessary to me, now

that my parents are aging and dealing with different health ailments — I find they have a hard

time finding the right English words to articulate what they’re dealing with.



Do you feel obligated to talk about the Filipinx American experience because you are

Fil-Am? Why or why not?

I’m not sure? I do know at this point in my life, I am very interested in learning my own history,

as well as our collective history. The culture of Filipinx people on the East Coast pales in

comparison to that of the West Coast, and that makes me sad that it’s not a fixture here. If even any small things I do can contribute to people better understanding where we come from, then that’s good enough for me.



How in your writing do you express being Filipinx, whether implicitly or explicitly?

Being American?

I express being Fil-Am through Mga Bagay, a personal project where I have created a space to share what family memories I can discover, items I’ve created, and tell my story. Explicitly, I

express being Fil-Am through Merienda, which is a party open to all in hopes of learning and

celebrating our roots. We’ve taken the traditional family party and remixed it into a new space,

giving a platform to Filipinx creatives and Filipinx-owned businesses.



What parts of your identity do you feel conflict? How do you reconcile these

differences?

All of it. I’m in a place right now where I cannot reconcile it due to my father’s dementia and my mother, a breast cancer survivor, constantly dealing with caregiver burnout. My family breaks the initial thought that all Filipinx families are large and tight knit. My family is indifferent, distant, and I am constantly struggling with all of them generationally and culturally. I feel most alone with my family.



Who are you, and how do you want the Filipinx American community to know you?

I am Chloe-Lynn Michelle Gonzales Ordo ñ ez, first generation Filipino American born in

Manhattan, NY. I want the community to know me as a designer who pushed for a strong

Fil-Am community on the East Coast through Mga Bagay and Merienda, a Fil-Am Family Day

Party.



Interview conducted by Nazlı Karabıyıkoğlu, who is the Interview Editor for Marías at Sampaguitas. She is an author from Turkey, enthusiastic traveler, Feminist activist, and Mother of four cats and countless animals all over the world. Full-time resident in Georgia, escaped from the oppression in Turkey. Has 5 published books in Turkish. For further information: www.nazlikarabiyikoglu.com.

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