“Sweet 15” is a series of posts written by past participants of the Distinguished Young Women/Junior Miss program reflecting on their 15-year-old selves. Get ready for some wise, witty and seasoned advice from women of all ages and backgrounds. They have gained perspective on their teenage years from diverse life experiences and will share with you through this fun new series!
By Chuti Tiu
America’s Junior Miss 1987
Ah, to be 15 again. Wait, not really. I don’t really want to go back to being 15 again: worried that my parents were way too strict, fretting that I’m not in the popular crowd, always wishing I were prettier, smarter, richer. Anything-er. And all those cliques.
Things don’t really change that much. I frequently talk to my friends about how ridiculous adult life is – we never left high school. You have the richer crowd with the fancy cars and homes. You have the know-it-alls who like to tell everyone the right answer to everything. You have the wannabes who keep trying to get lucky enough to be in the “popular” group. And you have everyone in between, trying to strike a balance between fitting in and marching to the beat of her own drum. PTAs, country clubs, churches, community organizations, businesses, exercise classes, and all of Hollywood – they’re all just big, fat high schools with more money and years under the belt.
That’s the bad news (insert evil laugh here.) The good news is that everyone is learning the same lessons, over and over again. One of them is to be happy with who you are.
My sophomore year, I was feeling so geeky and unpopular. I went to an all-girl school and lived far away from most everyone else in my class. Top it all off, my parents didn’t want me to do sleepovers, dates, nothing.
So I got the brilliant idea (or idiotic urge, you choose which) to skip school for a day with my friend Cassie. She was older (did I mention I was also younger than everyone in my class because I skipped the 2nd grade?), more experienced, and way, way cooler than me. She was American Idol; I was the school talent show. I so wanted to be American Idol.
Crazy thing about brilliant ideas – you need a foolproof plan. Stealing across half an acre of green grass in front of the principal’s office window to get to my school bus at the end of the day? Not so foolproof. Pretty much half the school saw me, let alone the principal. To add insult to injury, we didn’t even do anything fun; we just walked around a bit, then sat at a diner while Cassie chatted with her boyfriend. Somehow, this is not what I had in mind when I wanted to be “cooler.”
After getting caught, being put on academic probation, and having my semester grades in every class drop a full grade (that means every A became a B, every B a C and so on) – I learned a classic lesson. In comparing myself to others, I made myself feel so low that I did something stupid to be “cooler.” Instead of trying to fulfill an outside perceived judgement, a more important question for me to pose was – what did I think of myself? Instead of “does anyone like me?” I changed the question to “do I like me?” Liking who I was would be a heck of a lot easier than doing a song and dance to be liked by anyone else. Marching to the beat of many other drums could get really confusing; marching to the beat of my own drum would be much more doable – something I still work on to this day.
Chuti Tiu is an actress, writer and producer living in Los Angeles with her husband, actor Oscar Torre. Chuti most recently starred in the television shows Weeds, In Plain Sight and Southland. She is also a business developer in the anti-aging field. She produced her first screenplay, Pretty Rosebud, and it will be making the film festival rounds in 2013. Pretty Rosebud centers around finding and following your own truth, not the opinions of others. Chuti represented Wisconsin during the 1987 America’s Junior Miss Scholarship Program and was selected as America’s Junior Miss 1987. America’s Junior Miss is now know as,