When you think of a small-town girl, I’m most likely not who you would picture in your head. My name is Dominique and I grew up in the extremely southern and small town of Griffin, Georgia.
Griffin is the type of town where building a new grocery store was the most interesting thing to happen within the last ten years. Every kid, for generations, has attended the same elementary school, middle school, and high school. Everyone knows everyone’s momma and everyone’s business.
So where does the struggle come in? The struggle comes from the reality that I am a caramel-mocha skinned girl with braids, wide hips, and bow-legged who was raised in a town where not many people look like I do. Most people look at me and a question mark appears in their minds by my appearance. There were times when I was literally asked, “what are you?”
I am different and I look different. I do not belong in the typical categories of labels - racial, ethnic or otherwise. I was and am reminded of this every single day. Throughout my entire life, people have constantly pointed out my skin color or the look and texture of my hair or the sound of my voice.
By the time I was a senior in high school, the problem and internal struggle was at an all-time high. I never realized how much these comments and questions impacted my self-esteem. For a long time, I felt very isolated and unwanted. As a bi-racial child, I never felt as if I had a true place within society that I belonged. I always felt like I was that one orange in a bowl of red and green apples.
Then came my freshman year of college. Sarah Tate was a sassy, green eyed girl who I shared English class with. She was the one who introduced me to Delta Phi Epsilon. Before joining, I was skeptical of Greek Life. Many of the sororities on my campus did not look like me and it was terrifying. The last thing I wanted to do was come to college and continue being an orange amongst apples.
Not long after meeting Sarah, I ended up at the DPhiE house to hang out with her. As I walked through the house, admiring the purple and gold palace that I had been welcomed into, the most beautiful redheaded girl I had ever seen stepped right in front of my gaze. That girl, Brett, cheerfully said hi and introduced herself.
Later that week I was invited back to that beautiful home on Greek Row. That night, I looked around the room and saw some of the most beautiful, loving, confident, and unique women I had ever seen. Every single woman was diverse in so many aspects. I remember feeling welcomed by all of the sisters of DPhiE. They embraced me with bright smiles and open arms. They welcomed me not only into their home but into their sisterhood. They wanted to know me for me instead of assigning me into these boxes that I had been placed in my entire life. I no longer felt like that lonely orange.
Instead of asking me what I was, they asked me what my passions were. To this day they have never emphasized my differences- they have always praised them. My sisters have truly made me feel like everything from my caramel-mocha skin to my bow-legged legs is special and loved. They have inspired me to empower other women.
DPhiE has shaped who I am and continues to do so every day. For the first time in my life, I feel accepted for who I am, loved for who I am and supported as I journey to become who I’m meant to be.
Dominique Pagan is an initiate of the Gamma Omicron Chapter at Georgia Southern University. Learn more about Gamma Omicron here and tour the chapter’s beautiful home by visiting our online album here.