NECC Observer

The student news website of Northern Essex Community College, Haverhill and Lawrence, Mass.

American Dream Profile Series: Antonia Laplanche

Though she has grown up and lived in America her whole life, Antonia Laplanche is no stranger to discrimination. As a young, biracial woman who was raised by a young, single mother, Laplanche has had ideas about the American Dream since a young age. When I spoke with her she told me how both her experiences in life and her family’s have affected her thinking.

I would say that this interview was probably the one I was least nervous about. Laplanche has been a family friend for years, long before I was born. She was even the flower girl in my parents wedding. I’ve known Laplanche essentially my whole life, that being said I obviously haven’t seen her in a while. However, when I spoke with her, the conversation flowed easily. Laplanche was sweet, funny, and very warm and open.

Laplanche was born on October 27th, 1989 in Cambridge, Massachusetts. She grew up in Gloucester, Mass and now lives in Peabody.

“I moved to Peabody two months ago.  I was previously living in Denver, CO and before that NYC. I moved back to Massachusetts to be closer to my family, who all live in Gloucester. I see Peabody as a temporary location as my husband, Harry, andI look for a place closer to Gloucester.” Laplanche and her husband married in April, they do not have any children.

Throughout her life, Laplanche has experienced lots of discrimination, whether it be based on her race (Laplanche’s mother is white and her biological father is black), gender, or socio-economic class.

“There have been “minor” things, like people making assumptions about me because of my race. There have also been more severe instances where I’ve been threatened, questioned, and essentially asked to leave the premises due to my race. I’ve also experienced discrimination due to gender (mostly in the workforce) and socio-economic class (mostly in high school, college, and while living in NYC).”

Growing up she also was different from her peers because she was raised by a young, single mother. “I am very close with my parents (mother and stepfather),” Laplanche said, “as well as my grandparents.” Both her parents and grandparents’ stories have helped shape her own life and her thoughts on the American Dream

“My family has had a significantly positive impact on my life. I believe that my confidence in my personal ability to create my own American Dream stems from them. My parents and grandparents have all, in one way or another, forged their own paths and gone against what they were “supposed to” do.”

Laplanche’s grandfather grew up in a poor family. He paved his own way by putting himself through school. He went on to work in the corporate world and started his own company. Laplanche’s grandmother chose to go to college, even though her parents only saved money for her brother to attend, she ended up finding a way to make her dream a reality.

Laplanche’s mother was a young single mother, “My mother had a child (me) at 19, and still managed to graduate college only 1 semester late, work a fulltime job, buy a house, and single-handedly put me through private school. She never followed the classic storyline that our society illustrates of “teen moms.” She started her own holistic wellness business, an industry that many have doubted.”

Laplanche’s stepfather immigrated from Kenya and settled down with her mother, someone who was not a part of the strict Indian culture he had grown up in. These stories she told me have helped her to define the idea of the American Dream.

“I have seen people—family members, friends, etc.—abandon the lifestyle they grew up with (whether that’s related to poverty/wealth, geographic location, religion) and create their own path in life. I think there are many other countries that do not offer the same freedoms for their citizens to start their own businesses, voice their own beliefs, etc.”

Laplanche has been aware of the idea of the American Dream for a long time, “I’ve been aware of the broad concept of the “American Dream” since I was young. I read a lot about immigrants coming to this country to live the American Dream (as some of my family members did).”

As she began to meet other people from different backgrounds and different countries her thoughts and feelings that surrounded the American Dream began to change, “However, it became more personal to me when I started getting to know people from other countries rather than just reading about it in books. I met people who’d had an arranged marriage. When I went to college, I befriended a few people from Saudi Arabia, and I learned a lot about the legal gender roles. I’d say I really started to understand the concept (rather than just know about the concept) around my late teens/early twenties.”

It was then that Laplanche really began to decide what the American Dream meant to her, “To me, the American Dream means there’s no such thing as “supposed to.” We can live our lives the way we want to live our lives. I can start my own business. I can follow my own values, morals, and beliefs. I can wear the clothes I want to wear. Society, the government, family members, etc. may try to push us in a certain direction at times, but I believe Americans, for the most part, have the liberty to create their own destiny.”

Laplanche also recognizes that for the majority of people the American Dream is perceived as successfulness or the opportunity to be successful.

“ I believe that Americans are afforded the opportunity to not only create a successful life for themselves, but also define what “success” means to them (although I don’t necessarily believe that all Americans are given the same level of opportunity).”

Overall, Laplanche feels lucky to have the upbringing she did, “My family’s history in standing up against adversity, stepping outside of the “norm,” and choosing their own destinies has not only provided me with first-hand examples of how to achieve (what I believe is) the American Dream, but has also instilled me with a great deal of courage and a feeling of support. They have taught me to be uncompromising when achieving what I want out of my life. I may not have achieved all of my dreams yet, but I feel lucky to have been shown the way by my family.”

Note: This is one in a series of profiles Sabine Smith completed as an Honors Project in Journalism I.