Embracing Liminal Identity : Uncovering Hidden Diversity : Celebrating Cultural Mobility

SERIES, PART I OF III = Love & Ohana: The Story of an Unstoppable Cross-Cultured Family

Family photo of Rasha Pecoraro, Fauna Hodel, Yvette Gentil and Leilani. Courtesy of Rasha Pecoraro.

There are some women in the world who just seem unstoppable. Confident, caring, passionate, vivid, creative and hardworking – these people are one in a million.

Rasha Pecoraro is one of them.

Rasha in the 1990s. Photo provided by Rasha Pecoraro.

Pecoraro is a stunning woman with blonde hair and blue eyes. But just looking at her would give you no indication of the complex cultural and vocational aspects of her life.

She has been featured on the Biggest Loser, has been a plus-size model since 2003, is an actor, a writer, a vlogger, a mother and the co-owner of Dapper D Fashions with her wife, Vanna.

Pecoraro is an all around rock star, and has been vlogging about her weight loss journey to a dedicated crowd of YouTube subscribers for 5 years.

Born in Hawaii, she feels deeply connected to the culture and lifestyle there.

Rasha in the 1980s.

“I loved being born and raised in Hawai’i. It’s my culture. My home” she said.

“When people look at me they don’t automatically know that I identify as Hawaiian. I’m blonde hair and blue eyed, and people assume I have only grown up in a typical American upbringing, but that is not the case.”

Pecoraro’s Mother is the famous Fauna Hodel, a white woman raised in an African American family, and she incorporated both of these cultures into Pecoraro’s childhood. She used to spend half of the week with her mother, and half with her father. Her father was white, and her Step-Mom was Japanese. Thus, Pecoraro’s upbringing was a blend of unique cultural experiences.

Rasha’s sister, Yvette Gentile ,was Fauna’s first child and is of mixed race. Their Mother’s unique upbringing and efforts to overcome adversity have affected both women as they have grown older.

“I am proud of who I am, no matter what culture someone thinks I come from. I am Hawaiian, through and through. “

“Our Mom raised my sister and I to not see color. My sister and I were always raised to treat everyone equally no matter what,” Pecoraro said.

The family moved around the United States for a few years, following Gentile in her modeling career. In 1997, the sisters moved to Portland, where Pecoraro finished high school and started college. Then they moved to Los Angeles in 1998.

“I literally followed her when she moved because I missed her. I wanted to be close to my sister” said Pecoraro, a testament to how close knit her family is.

Pecoraro now lives back in Portland with her wife Vanna and daughter Leilani.

Hodel’s recent passing on 09.30.17 has affected the family on a deep level.

Pecoraro, Hodel (center) and Gentile in Hawai’i

However both Pecoraro and Gentile have taken to following in their Mother’s footsteps. Hodel’s compassion and warmth is what fuels Pecoraro to perpetuate her Mother’s “legacy of LOVE. Every. Single. Day.”

“My family keeps me going. Having just lost our beautiful mother . . .  my world has been shattered, but there are so many beautiful things happening, I know it will get better.”

“Yvette and I are a true legacy of our Mom, and want to perpetuate her love everyday.”

In the next segment, read about Gentile’s story and hear her reflections about this incredible family.

By: Allie

Allie Ruckman is a writer, content-creator, artist, marketer and a creative in every sense of the word. She is from Boulder, Colorado, and draws inspiration for her work from the casual, outdoor environment that is unique to the western United States. She is passionate about liberal politics, environmental, social and racial justice, and loves to write in the pursuit of a better, more equal world. While she is less experienced in global travel or multiculturalism, Ruckman seeks to value, respect and represent all peoples, places and cultures.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *