A traveller has gone viral after calling out a complete stranger for filming her on a packed flight. Karina Henry, an educator and content creator, was on a busy afternoon domestic flight in Mexico on February 23 with local airline Volaris when she noticed a woman a few rows in front of her recording a video of her.
The 33-year-old said the woman took “more than 10” different recordings of her with a variety Snapchat filters and believes the unwanted attention came down to the colour of her skin.
“I was the only Black person on the plane but I was shocked when this lady tried to take videos and photos of me for about 10 minutes before I whipped my phone out and returned the favour,” she told Yahoo News Australia.
Karina, originally from New York, now lives in Playa Del Carman in Mexico and took the opportunity to speak to the woman, telling her in Spanish: “If you want a photo, just ask please… that’s all”.
“I can guarantee you that the photo we took together looked way better than the videos and photos she took of me without my permission,” Karina said. “I’m a human being, not an animal in the zoo, so a simple request, no matter how it’s done, will definitely get a photo out of me.”
Strangers stare, film and touch her
Karina posted a video of the odd interaction to her Instagram account, where it quickly gained more than 9 million views. While some social media users were shocked that people of colour were being treated as a “novelty” in 2023, Karina told Yahoo News she’s dealt with strangers staring at her, filming her and touching her hair, face – and even her bottom – without permission.
She explained that it was particularly hard during the times she lived in China and Thailand – but noted they were also years of major personal growth. While teaching English at a school in China, one student licked her hand and was disappointed that she didn’t taste like chocolate.
“When I told his mother at the end of the day, she explained that she had told her son that I was made of chocolate because he was nervous about being in my class because of my skin colour,” Karina said. But despite feeling “dehumanised” at times, Karina refused to let it get to her and incredibly, the unwarranted attention forced her to accept herself for who she is.
“Before moving to China, I was extremely self-conscious but China did for me what life in The States couldn’t do – it pushed me so far out of my comfort zone that I was forced to adapt and accept Karina,” she said.
“The constant stares, unwarranted conversations and unsolicited pictures can do a number on your anxiety and self-esteem but I realised I couldn’t hide forever if I was planning to make the most out of my life in China. You can run from the pictures and stares or you can be a chubby version of Beyoncé and get free food, drinks, or whatever else you want.
“Living in China and traveling to nine Asian countries really made me realise how awesome it is to be different.”
Other travellers share similar experiences
Karina’s video sparked more than 1100 comments, many from others claiming similar things had happened to them. “I went to Japan a couple years ago, and you could always tell when the kids had never seen a Black person before,” one man said.
“I was at a beach in Taiwan and an entire tour bus stopped and asked me for pics. I don’t think they thought I was anyone famous, I just don’t think they had ever seen a Black person before. They weren’t rude but was a lot to process,” a woman wrote.
And it wasn’t only Black people who shared the experience.
“I get this all the time when I go to different parts of Asia, I’m blonde, blue eyed and 5ft 9’,” one woman said. “People literally asking for pics of me and with me.. some recorded sneakily but most people asked. I thought that they mistook me for someone that was actually famous but some local teenage girls told me it’s cause ‘we don’t see people who look like you around here’.”
“My brother who is light-skinned Irish blood just went to Indonesia (with many stops along the way) and he told me that he had NEVER been stared at so hard and by so many people in his whole life… It took him a while to get comfortable because he felt energetically invaded,” another person added.
Others praised Karina for handling the situation so well.
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