I was taught from a very young age to be strong. My mother raised twin daughters and young son on her own for a long time, so I didn’t have that experience of leaning on my father for help. I know him, but he wasn’t really there. I admired my mother’s strength. My sister and I would watch her move from job to job, sometimes two or three at the same time, working long hours, and she’s done such a great job of it. We were never without a home or clothes or food, and somehow she remained strong for us. My mother taught me many things growing up -cooking, cleaning, yard work, etc. – because she had to do it all, and we helped our mom as much as we could. I never really understood until now that maybe she did that so if we were to fall into the same predicament she did, we would be able to take care of ourselves.
There were no tasks in our house that were gender specific. My sister and I took out the trash just like our brothers, and the boys took turns washing dishes. I am proud to say that I know these things because there were a lot of girls on my block back home whose parents did not make them learn. They did not make them prepare to one day be on their own in life, and as a result I guess they felt too good for it. Hard work has made me who I am today. Without my mother instilling in me good work habits and independence, I would probably still be living at home with her and missing out on college.
When I came to Michigan State University, all I wanted to do was be in the theatre program. I’ve loved the stage for as long as I can remember, but it wasn’t until high school that I got into acting. Since performing in my first musical (The Color Purple), I have favored shows that speak to the real troubles of life. Rape violence is a real life issue, and that is why I decided to audition for ‘The Vagina Monologues’ this year. I found the topic so profound because it is one that a lot of people are scared to talk about or avoid all together. As a woman, you have to know about your vagina, as much as you need strength. My mother, aunts and grandmothers taught me everything I know about the female body; young girls won’t know what is going on with themselves if there is not a good female support system giving them know-how. ‘The Vagina Monologues’ appealed to the way I was brought up in that these women whom Eve Ensler wrote about were strong enough to tell their stories so that others can learn from them. Violence toward anyone is wrong, but sometimes young people can’t explain what has happened to them. That is why this show must exist.
I also joined the cast because the play speaks to all types of women’s issues. There are stories of women with insecurities, women who protest against what the world sees as ‘female’, and women who were emotionally abused. I think I’ve fit into either of these categories at one point in my life. I had people even in my own family to put me down, tell me that I wasn’t going to amount to anything, and sometimes I believed them. It took a lot for me to get to the point when I accepted who I was as a person and stopped listening to those outside voices.
The ladies I work with are so strong and devoted to this cause that it makes me want to step up that much more to tell the story of ‘My Short Skirt’. I love my character because she’s strong like my mother and like me. She knows who she is and she refuses to be disrespected. I take a lot of what I put into the role from my mother, and a lot from the power I feel in being a woman. As women, we run the world, no matter what anyone says. There should be a sense of pride in who we are and how far we’ve come in all areas of life, and I truly feel that this is why the Vagina Monologues is necessary.
Kaliyah Jetton is a sophomore studying Journalism and Theatre at Michigan State University. This is her very first production at MSU and she is very excited to be apart of such a wonderful cast. Kaliyah would like to thank the director and production teams for letting her be herself in this role, and all of her new friends for their constant praise and support.