By: Rochelle Sunglao
“You’re going to be poor, what kind of living will you make working at Supercuts?!?!”
That was a question my mom asked me 14 years ago, and the beginning of 6 months of being on the
receiving end of the cold shoulder.
Being the eldest daughter in a Filipino household, to say that there were unrealistic expectations of me
would be a gross understatement. My mother and I were often at odds with one another for a variety of
reasons at any given time in her life. I’m not the model daughter that she envisioned. I was a tomboy for
a large part of my childhood. I wasn’t “ladylike” enough. When I came into embracing my femininity the
color commentary shifted to, “Please don’t date, you should wait until after you finish college and get a
Children of immigrants understand that our parents take the chances to move to a foreign place
because they want better for their families. Whether for the betterment of the family they left behind or
the family they create, the idea is simple. They want us to have opportunities they didn’t, in a land that
they think will provide an opportunity to thrive. My mom’s particular vision for what that meant was
something that didn’t fall in line with my own. It was this difference in our visions that created a period
of time that was miserable for our already combative relationship.
I walk this fine line of being left and right brained. I have gone through all my life with the abilities to be
a “model minority” and could be an excellent student. My passions, the things that made me excited
about life were always the humanities and arts. I often joke about not being “that kind of Asian”
because math and sciences didn’t click as easily as my ability to form thought in writing. To give my
brain breaks during my academic career it was things like cooking, sketching, journaling, and coloring in
coloring books that saved my mental health. Never, never ever would I have considered entering a
creative field because that’s not what was acceptable, or even worse, it wasn’t respectable.
Nearly 15 years ago, I had a life changing surgery. Afterwards I was in a bad way and wrestling with and
odd sense of loss. I had lost one ovary, one fallopian tube, and had gained this fear of possible cancer. I
was waiting on the results of a biopsy and I asked myself, “Am I going down a path to be the type of
parent I want to be?” Simply put, the answer was a resounding NO. I knew whatever move I made next
had to be thoughtful, intentional. I had to take more active control over my future and that meant
dismantling the expectations my parents had of me being their first child with a bachelor degree. During
my medical leave from school, I decided that I would return in fall and try again to see where I stood.
Fall semester came, and my efforts were half assed. I wasn’t proud of my performance, this wasn’t
meant for me anymore. I’m definitely more of a use your whole ass type of girl. Change was necessary. I
had to figure out what I could do to have the balance of being happy and fulfilled and give my future
self the opportunity to be the kind of mother I imagined myself being.
I know my mom loved me, and I appreciate the sacrifices made to gift me this amazing life of creation,
but there were times I remember wishing that she was at certain events or could be the one to pick me
up from school every day. I didn’t want any child of mine to feel those things if I could help it. I made a
decision and enrolled in the local Paul Mitchell school to pursue my cosmetology license. I would have a
trade that I could take anywhere. I would be able to make a living in a very flexible field. I saw so much
possibility for my future self and I was so happy the day I went into the admissions office because I was
taking control of my future for myself and my family. I thought I was doing something that was similar to
what my parents had done by immigrating to the United States.
Sounds wonderful right? It was, up until I informed my parents of what I had done. My mom took the
news as a tragedy. There was a lot of things said that day. Then after, she didn’t say anything to me. I
was ignored. It was like I didn’t exist. I was in this place of being torn between what felt right in my gut,
and desperately wanting approval for my choice. My mom would have loved for me to be a nurse. She
would have loved that I follow in her footsteps, be the image of the daughter she always imagined. The
thing is, I couldn’t be. It wasn’t who I was or meant to be.
After getting my cosmetology license, I went to work. I paid my dues as an assistant in a large salon
chain, and no, not Supercuts. I built a clientele. I was steadily growing. My mom saw that I was taking
this career path seriously and saw that I was happy in my work life. She started coming to the salon and
was in my chair as a client. She was beginning to see how I could thrive.
2011, in late February my mom passed away. The fear of cancer, the fear I had a few years prior, it was
her reality. By the time we knew it was eating away at her, it was too late. It was inoperable, chemo
wasn’t going to be good for her quality of life. She had very limited time to spend with her husband and
4 kids. We were facing death together. Both terrified. Both trying to be strong. My mom and I, we’re
very much the same. Crude sense of humor, extra AF in our style, dancers at heart, strong willed, and
stubborn, good grief are we stubborn. At that time we also didn’t realize we were both carrying around
a lot of guilt and shame for things past. I hate to admit this, but knowing that death was approaching,
that was what it took for us to heal each other and come to a place of deep understanding.
We put all our quarrels aside. We said that we loved each other. We were physically affectionate. I
wiped her ass and she said, “This is payback for me wiping your ass all those times.” I held her more
than all the previous years combined. Before she passed away peacefully in her sleep, one of the best
things she ever said to me was, “Thank goodness you didn’t end up at Supercuts and thank goodness
you’re not a nurse. You’d be mediocre at it.” In her own way, she was finally giving me the approval I
was seeking all those years ago.
Written in loving memory of Rosalina Capanzana Sunglao
Hair stylist, make up artist, alien, unicorn, weirdo. The many facets of who Rochelle is, can be expressed as whimsical and oddly unique. Creative endeavors have always been part of their journey and have afforded them wonderful opportunities. Explorations in entrepreneurship, published work for hair and makeup abilities, being a brand educator, and connecting to people in very personal and fulfilling ways are among the endless benefits of a career that’s over a decade long. Not surprisingly, writing is another expression that resonates deeply with them. Writing about human experience, connection, and hope have been their primary subjects. Even though we are all having our unique experiences, the ways we feel are not solitary. They hope to remind others that we are all made of stardust after all.
Find Rochelle here: