An anthem for the Asian American community
ACTRESS and singer-songwriter Ella Jay Basco released the music video for her single “Gold,” a song of empowerment featuring Bay Area rapper Ruby Ibarra, on Thursday, April 29.
Known for her role as Cassandra Cain in “Birds of Prey,” the Filipina and Korean American breakout star is also diving into the music scene, drawing from influences from Lauryn Hill to Billie Eilish.
The song, written by the 14-year-old star, her older brother, and Ibarra amid the rise in anti-Asian hate, is about “being brown and loving our brown pride and culture,” Basco told the Asian Journal.
“What really drew me to the track was that I found it fitting in the times we’re in right now. Celebrating our identity and recognizing individuality are important to talk about because as we see with the rise of Asian American hate crimes and violence, there need to be more discussions around normalizing the Asian American voice and story,” Ibarra told the Asian Journal.
A voiceover narrates the “side effects” of the soap, which include: “complicity, inauthenticity, hallucinations of Anglo features, and confusions of self-worth.” The model (played by Basco) starts panicking and as she wipes her face, a swatch of her gold skin is revealed amid the black and white scene.
Basco approached Leslie Alejandro, a family friend and photographer/director behind Alejandro Films, with the concept and the latter began writing a script for the “commercial.”
“In this time and age, I knew there had to be a different way to tell a story and I also felt this is a time of the Filipino community to have a rise above and be noticed as our own community,” Alejandro told the Asian Journal. “We are proud to be Asian, we are proud to be part of the AAPI community, but we do have a different story, so trying to talk about it from this perspective, as Filipinos being brown or gold.”
The video then shifts to a technicolor set, playing on light and projections, as Basco, wearing attire by Filipina designer VINTA Gallery, sings:
Head to toe I’m dipped in gold
And I know and I know that I’ll break the mold
When you learn to love your true reflection
Then you’ll always be rich with a gold complexion
As the video progresses, the backdrop features headlines and signs, including the one that says “Positively No Filipinos Allowed,” that show the history of hate and discrimination against Filipino Americans. Ibarra raps: I look around and I wonder if I’m good enough / But what’s good enough if I don’t love myself enough / They tell me toughen up or I can never make the cut.
“We wanted to add little things like that that represented how we’ve been discriminated for so long — not only just me, but the generations before me as well,” Basco said. “As well as the Filipino flag and home videos that I have personally to honor my family. It’s kind of a compilation of different Easter eggs…When we were looking all of this up, it was super eye-opening and kind of weird at the same time.”
With the rich imagery and messaging, viewers may see similarities with Ibarra’s famous Filipina anthem “Us.”
“With the phrase that a lot of us are familiar with know history, know self, I think the other side of that is also if you understand history, it also allows us to challenge the narrative to change the future. For me, when it comes to including these powerful images, whether it’s with ‘Gold’ or music videos that I’ve done in the past, I think that’s a powerful tool of storytelling in itself,” Ibarra said.
For Basco, she hopes fellow Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) viewers will feel connected and empowered to the concept and message. For those who aren’t part of the community, she wants to impart that AAPIs are not a model minority and raise awareness on the damaging skin whitening industry.
“The Philippines is one of the biggest users of that and when they say to tell girls to make their skin lighter to be more socially accepted is so messed up,” Basco said.
The music video release comes at a time of support for the community, with the current rise in anti-Asian hate crimes, and on the heels of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month.
“I want our community to continue to advocate for ourselves and for other minorities that are struggling,” Basco said. “With this video and beyond that, I hope that people strive for a more equal society.”
Now on YouTube, the “Gold” music video was also produced by Palms Up Academy and Team Basco and features Andrea Walter as director of photography, A.J. Calomay as post-production producer/editor, music composer Denise Santos.