At 5-years-old, Gina was parading around the stage with a number pinned to her chest — but as the host of The Little Miss America Competition sang the national anthem, she felt he might as well have been singing, “You’re so whiiiiite, you’re so bloooooonde.” 

Even still, Gina — the toothless, black Shirley Temple — made it to the final round. When she didn’t hear her number called, she looked out into the sea of eager parents until she found them. Her mother: sullen and disappointed. Next to her mother sat her father with tears streaming down his face. From that point on, all Gina wanted was to be seen. To fit in and to be beautiful.

By the time she was 24, she didn’t feel too different from that little pageant girl. She got into theater school, but the optimism didn't last. Soon after getting accepted, she was drinking beer for breakfast, failing her classes and fantasizing about skipping town. That's in addition to the issues she was having with her boyfriend...