Ahead of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, Birds of Prey actress Ella Jay Basco and rapper Ruby Ibarra have released their Asian self-love music video “Gold.”
The video begins with Basco starring in a 1950’s black and white commercial advertising a “Brown Be Gone” skin whitening soap to “wash the brown away.” Midway through the commercial, the model played by Basco begins to panic when hearing the potential side effects of using the soap, such as “complicity” and “inauthenticity.”
As the commercial crew starts to pack up, Basco wipes her face to reveal a swatch of skin, which is in color, and is launched into a technicolor world where she sings about loving one’s identity and skin color. “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 yeah / Then you’ll always be rich with a gold complexion,” Basco sings. Ibarra’s verses touch on identity crisis and self confidence as she raps, “I look around and I wonder if I’m good enough / But what’s good enough if I don’t love myself enough.”
Basco and Ibarra spoke with The Hollywood Reporter on how the video can uplift the Asian community, spotlight the harmful effects of the skin whitening industry, and emphasize why it’s important to love one’s identity, within and without.
While writing “Gold” with her brother Darryl J. Basco and Ibarra, Ella Jay says a key inspiration for the lyrics was being surrounded by “a bunch of beautiful, strong, badass women in my life.”
“My family, we have so much pride in our heritage and who we are. We love our food and our skin tone. We love everything about our culture,” Basco says, who is half Korean and half Filipino. “I really wanted to write a song about loving our identity and not caring about what other people say because of that.” The actor and singer adds that the trio also wanted to create a song “that enlightened people with a message that showed our beautiful Brown golden skin and embraced our culture.”
Ibarra, a Filipino rapper whose previous hits “Us” and “Here” touch on her heritage and immigrant experiences, adds that she was proud to participate in the video and hopes those who listen take away “how beautiful individuality and identity are, especially during these times.”
“Gold” was directed by Leslie Alejandro and produced via her Alejandro Films banner, Palms Up Academy, and Team Basco, and filmed at EVS Studios in Glendale with a fully Asian, predominantly female team in front of and behind the camera. Wardrobe for the video was provided by Filipina designer Vinta Gallery.
Throughout the music video, there are visuals of family home videos, as well as news clippings of violence against the Filipino community and a photo of a building with the words “Positively No Filipinos Allowed” written on a wall. Basco says the all-Asian team for “Gold” wanted to show images that “not only showed our pride and our culture, but put a light on what has happened to our community.”
At the end of “Gold,” a fact about the skin whitening industry appears, noting that by 2027 it is projected to be worth over $24 billion dollars, according to Cision PR Newswire.
“In the beginning of the video, in the 1950’s commercial, we tap into how messed up that culture is because they’re making billions of dollars telling girls and young women and just people in general to lighten their skin to be more socially accepted,” Basco tells THR. “I hope that when people watch this, they understand how messed up the skin and skin lightening industry is… When people watch those beginning scenes and how uncomfortable it might be for some of us, I hope that they can understand a little bit of what we’ve been experiencing.”
Ibarra agrees, adding that “the colonial mentality is so deep-seated in a lot of our cultures, especially when it comes to communities that are immigrants such as ourselves. We come into this country and a lot of us are made to believe that we need to completely assimilate. They end up having to lose their culture, lose who they are.”
Both artists feel the video’s release a day before Asian Pacific American Heritage Month can offer a “beautiful message” for their community, which has experienced a mass increase in hate crimes in the past year. Ibarra adds that while it has been difficult to witness ignorance and hate in the past year, both for Asian-Americans as well as the Black community, she hopes “Gold” can “raise awareness, make people remember just how beautiful identity is.”
“I think that’s ultimately what America is about, having different music and sounds and stories and voices,” Ibarra says.
Watch the “Gold” music video below.