The People Project with Lily

Interview with Lily Benjamin, New York, New York, USA

Hi Lily, Of all the people in your life, who has been able to really see you?

Unequivocally my father. I grew up in Puerto Rico, and when I was little, I was very different both inside and out. In Puerto Rico what was considered cute for girls was being petite and chubby. And I was always skinny and very tall. And my feet were size 9 -- large for a girl. I was bullied by everyone, including my teachers and children in school. Nowadays we talk openly about bullying, which brings awareness to the problem. Without awareness bullying is terribly scary and paralyzing. I was so very sensitive, and people would mock me, call me La Llorona—a pretty awful legend about a crying woman—and sing songs about my crying. But my father would say, “Those are liquid pearls, just let them go.” When they’d make fun of my feet, he would say, “You’re going to be a beautiful strong woman and you need big feet to hold you up." He’d tell me that my feet were the foundation of the character I was going to become. He helped me value what everyone else would make fun of. He’d say “just take those beautiful solid feet and walk on top of the world, and chin up because you’re the daughter of the “big king,” meaning God. My father was the only one who really saw me, and to him I owe the basis of my character.

Sounds like he was a deep man who understood you.

Her connection and wisdom, being so tuned in is so familiar.

You know, I have a 12-year old niece who reminds me of the way I was when I was a little girl, all empathy and sensitivity. She created a little video for me, and when editing I had a lot of ideas and requests, kind of change this, move that, and so on. Most people would get impatient, and she's a child, so I was trying to choose my requests carefully, not to overwhelm her. She sensed my hesitations, and do you know what she told me? “Auntie Lily, this is for you, I want you to be happy, and I will do what it takes for you to be satisfied with the final version. So, don’t worry about it. We’ll go back and forth for as many times as it takes." She is so intuitive and selfless, at such a tender age. Her connection and wisdom, being so tuned in is so familiar. My father was like that… I miss him.

Not everyone has such an emotional range. What do you value in other people?

So bring it on. Be authentic. Be raw. Show your best intentions.

I value authenticity and honestly, and I value "raw." What I mean is people, ideas, and solutions don't have to be perfect. I don't expect right answers or anyone being at their best all the time. No one is born knowing. So, bring it on. Be authentic. Be raw. Show your best intentions. I don’t have it all either, but together we can figure it out. I’ll be accountable for my part, but you have to be accountable for yours. Accountability is also very important to me.