danielle lyn talks authenticity, duality and owning her morena identity

New York-based model, actress and writer, Danielle Lyn gets real about authenticity, duality and owning her morena identity in Hollywood. In this interview, she talks to asienne about the power of representation and the struggles that come with the ever-present colorism in our day and age.


Name: Danielle Lyn

Occupation: Actress

Known For: Nappily Ever After, Queen Sugar, The Divergent Series

Star Sign: Cancer

Secret Skill: Ice Skating


Can’t eat it, want to hug it.” (AKA Vegetarian)

Be kind, it’s what you leave behind.”

Super Power: Creating Original Content @HanaiCreative

Links: official siteIMDb | instagram

An alternate version 
of this interview can be viewed
in a digital magazine style 
with the link here.

In your own terms, how would you define Filipino-American? 

There is a duality with the label and the definition is in the hyphen between those nationalities. I’m ever grateful for the life path I’ve lived, the love I’ve known, and the opportunities that have come from having that hyphen have allowed me to forge my own way with a home between. To me, that’s often what life is: the in-between of undefinable, finding the places and people that grow with you, and who you choose to be in the world.

What’s your take on the recent #AsianInvasian of this past year? 

Was it an #AsianInvasian of 2018, or has this group of talented artists always been right here that it just took this long for better representation? That it took this long for far better opportunities to be seen and thusly rewarded by filmmakers, studios and casting of minority groups in our media?

I am grateful that we are rounding out the teens of our millennium with a social and somewhat inclusive industry push for change, but it is well overdue. That is not something that I’m quiet about. Monumental barriers are being broken and rightfully so. It boils back to the limited opportunities those artists had, until now.

Now we have wildly successful films such as Crazy Rich Asians starring an all-Asian cast! The successes of these individual artists and their careers, plus the diversity that they represent is finally changing the game.

Sandra Oh, for example, with her well-deserved Golden Globe win for Best Actress is a milestone but again, it’s overdue. She kept on her career for years earning work that afforded her this star power, and her perseverance has paved the way for others.

It’s a motivation for those of us who have had to hope that the roles would be written with us in mind, or that projects would be open to see us fitting. And the more of us that speak out, represent what’s not been seen, the more change and inclusion we see represented in our media: in our content and on on our screens. It truly begins with us collaborating, creating, delivering in the work and forging our own way.

An alternate version 
of this interview can be viewed
in a digital magazine style 
with the link here.

What has been the greatest struggle of your career so far? You’ve talked about how people in the Philippines are shocked to hear that you’re acting and modeling with your morena complexion?

When I recently returned to the Philippines, I was met a very troubling and distorted standard of beauty placed on that society. It was disheartening to be advertised, wherein everywhere I looked, fairer skin was seen as “more beautiful.”

However, that mentality has definitely reverberated into my career. In many facets of casting and productions, they’ve had trouble seeing me as “Asian” enough, and have repeatedly not known where to put me. That can be very limiting when it comes to work opportunities but I tell myself that it is my uniqueness that stands out and it helps grow perspective.

Having been told that I am ‘morena’, I am proud to own my skin no matter what the cultural standards are.


If you’re still finding your voice and space for yourself in who you are, then voice and presence is more powerful and grounded when the opportunities are right. This business is about timing, perseverance and trust. Trusting that there will be people who you meet, work with that will see beyond the standards or stereotypes and continue to do so.

That’s what you keep going for–you have those who love you off-screen when you’re told ‘No‘ a thousand times. They celebrate you when you get the wins but you also know they love you no matter what.

Ultimately, don’t give over your definition of self when you’re still finding your place and how you fit. With those things in mind, having been through this for years, it inspires me to take the reins.

My advice: do the work. That way you know you’ve worked that much harder than the rest, who cannot relate to your story. When you share your story, it will inspire others to see a different lens. That inspires all the more, by offering you peace and motivation where you are.

An alternate version 
of this interview can be viewed
in a digital magazine style 
with the link here.

What’s been the greatest joy of doing what you do every day?

You have to live your own story to truly tell others’ with authenticity. Storytelling is how humans imprint and preserve. We have the privilege to do it in this millennium where a story is virtual, streamable, and infinite in being because our ability to connect is global. We call tell more, produce more, and create more. That’s powerful, and it’s ours. To me, there’s joy, and gratitude with that awareness everyday.


What do you hope to accomplish or what message do you hope to convey with your platform during this age of #AsianRising? 

Championing the path for diversity, women and inclusion. My creative work with the founding of Hānai Creative with Leilani Lonsdale. It is our mutual commitment to remain the forefront of delivering original content, and diverse storytelling.

My message: trust who you create your life and your story with, who you grow from, and when you are in it to ‘dive off the platform’ and deliver means you’re pushing forward, beyond any of life’s set backs.

Those who truly care and love will be there with you in front of and behind new lenses, they are few, and they are gems. Hold true to those who push and balance, that is greatness.

An alternate version 
of this interview can be viewed 
in a digital magazine style 
with the link here.

Life’s messages are often found in that which grounds you most. For me, it will always be about giving back.

  • As a member and supporter of such amazing non-profits such as NY Women in Film and Television (NYWIFT), Figure Skating in Harlem (FSH) and Kaisahang Buhay Foundation (KBF) is what inspires and grounds me.
  • There’s NYWIFT’s community of diverse artists who are all about empowerment, support, connection and collaboration with other New York filmmakers.
  • The near and dear to my heart, Figure Skating in Harlem (FSH) encouraging young, talented women of color to go after their dreams and educations on ice (and off).
  • My life’s work of advocating for global children’s care at Kaisahang Buhay Foundation (KBF) in the Philippines.

Humans are better at being when they are kinder together and I [have set into] 2019 encouraging all those reading: Our voices and actions are the platforms to open lenses into our worlds. Honor them, honor yourself, honor the love #WomenRising #Whoruntheworldgirls

Empower and rise up into your own, no matter how you identify, where you begin, this is our time and it is now.

***This interview was originally conducted on January 2019.
Photos were used with permission from its respective owners (the talent and/or the photographer).

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