American woman’s ‘tone deaf’ video about returning her Filipino nanny back home after 30 years raises questions about treatment of overseas Filipino workers
A woman is getting backlash from creators of color after posting what’s been described as a “tone deaf” video about her childhood nanny.
On May 11, Lexie Jayy (@lexie_jayy), a 29-year-old model and content creator based in Los Angeles, California, posted a controversial video on TikTok, in which she reveals that she’s “moving” her childhood nanny back to the Philippines.
In the video, which has since gone viral on the digital platform with more than 4 million views and 563,600 likes, Lexie gives the backstory about her longtime nanny, Elena, who lived with her family for around 30 years. “It had been over 30 years since nanny had last been to the Philippines. She sacrificed raising her son and daughter to get a job in America and send every dollar she could back home to her family.”
“Taking her back to the Philippines is something I could not have wanted to do more,” Lexie explains, while noting that Elena was there for her during the most formative of experiences during her life.
In what was likely an effort to post a heartwarming story about Elena, some viewers took issue with certain aspects of Lexie’s video. Questions inevitably arose, including why Lexie’s family allegedly failed to pay for Elena to visit her loved ones in the Philippines earlier than now or how, after three decades in the country, she was unable to become an American citizen.
“All sorts of things were going through my head at this point: Will nanny’s family take care of her? Will they resent me? How will she fit in? Will she be homesick for America?” Lexie asks.
In the final three seconds of the video, a clip is shown of Elena hugging her daughter “for the first time.”
While some commenters haven’t had a problem with Lexie’s video about Elena, others, particularly people of color, are pointing out how privileged it comes off to the general public.
“her never hugging her own daughter in her life to raise you..” @himerdos wrote.
“… why didn’t you ever fly her home before this,” @perfectisntsexy asked.
“Is she a dual citizen and gained American citizenship? Because she lived with your family for thirty years, which is more than enough for her to gain,” @elouise4921 replied.
Lex (@lexifyign), a Filipino American TikTok user, posted a video in response to Lexie’s, calling for the acknowledgment of the plight of overseas Filipino workers.
“Now, this is a very specific situation. There is a lot I don’t know about that situation, but what I can talk about is the fact that domestic servants are not protected in America,” Lex reveals in her May 19 video. “Because we all know the typical story of an immigrant moving to America and becoming a maid or a servant or a caregiver to the elderly because there are no other options.”
“Although the total number of Filipinas working as nannies is unknown, advocacy groups estimate that Filipinos make up 15% — or as many as 300,000 — of the approximately 2 million domestic workers in the United States,” Ashley Westerman of NPR reported in 2013.
In 2021, women accounted for 60.2 percent or 1.10 million of overseas Filipino workers. Men, on the other hand, accounted for 39.8 percent or 0.73 million of Filipino migrant workers, per findings from the Philippine Statistics Authority.
The blatant “feminization of Philippine migration” is further exemplified by the many OFWs who’ve taken on employment as nannies or domestic workers over time.
Lex notes that sometimes an overseas Filipino worker is overqualified, normally qualified or they “just have a degree that is not honored in America.” In an effort to educate audiences on the experience of migrant workers, Lex also references a story published in the Atlantic in 2017 entitled “My Family’s Slave” by Alex Tizon.
“This is relevant and topical, but I am not alleging that this is what Lexie’s family did to their maid,” Lex disclaims about Tizon’s story. “There are a lot of us, and a lot of immigrants who did get lucky. A lot of immigrant children who have benefitted from these people’s extremely hard work, and we should confront that.”
“What’s crazy is she exploited her again by making a tiktok like that for her own benefit. Like she thought that video would gain HER more followers,” @summerofrae replied.
“The level of her lack of awareness and glaring privilege in that video was concerning to say the least,” @ashleybulletjournals wrote. “It was so sad.”
“She is limping, her body is clearly broken down. They used her for half her life and are discarding her now,” @burneraccountboi commented.
On May 21, in light of the criticism she’s received, Lexie posted a follow up video on TikTok with the caption, “talking about Elena,” during which she acknowledges her “inappropriate”
tone and claims to have filmed “a lengthy video going into the details of her immigration process” and “employment.” Elena, however, allegedly requested Lexie keep this information to herself.
“Her word to me, is the most important thing. And I will honor that,” Lexie says. “She reminded me that she and I know the truth of our relationship, that that is what matters most and that hateful people are not interested in understanding.”
“I want to make it clear that I agree with how broken the immigration process is. Separately, I’d like to make it clear that Elena received a competitive wage for her work,” she adds. “She has been in my life since I was three weeks old. It is very painful to unpack why someone would end up as an undocumented citizen, but reducing her life and story to nothing but pain and sadness is untrue and disrespectful.”
Lexie then apologizes for coming off as insensitive.
“I am deeply sorry for the ripple effect of her hurt that my videos caused,” she says. “The spreading of false narratives on the internet can be extremely hurtful and dangerous to all involved.”
In just one day of posting, Lexie’s video has more than 600 comments, the majority of which seem to suggest Lexie is being disingenuous. TikTok users are accusing Lexie of having an impressive public relations representative.
“As someone who works in pr… who did you hire?! That apology ateeeee” @rangersrompsandstomps wrote.
“let’s go PR-approved pre-written script,” @readwithcindy commented.
That same day, Stefannie, who goes by the TikTok username @chiefnosybystander, shared her thoughts regarding Lexie’s apology video.
“OK, for reference, I don’t think the audience is asking about the nature of your relationship,” Stefannie says in response to Lexie defending her relationship with Elena. “I think they were asking about the nature of her relationship with her employers, not the relationship of the child who didn’t pay her.”
Stefannie also points out the inconsistencies with Lexie claiming that Elena’s immigration lawyers “advised her” not to visit her children back home or have them visit her in the United States.
“So it’s a bit confusing to find out now that she was actually undocumented,” she says, also in response to Lexie previously blaming the American immigration system for Elena’s inability to stay in the country.
“Her rich parents could’ve sponsored and moved her family out here. Elena was robbed of her own motherhood,” @heyhayhay86 commented on Stefannie’s video.
“If someone was this important to me, I’d move heaven & hell to get them documented and get their family here,” @noangel815 also replied.
“Its giving my parents attorney wrote this and I’m reading it so I don’t get financially cut off but I still have no idea why ppl are upset,” @theindianajanes criticized.
“Unable to earn enough money at home, an estimated 2.2 million Filipinos worked overseas last year, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority. The majority were women, many hoping to give their child a better future,” Jessie Yeung and Xyza Cruz Bacani wrote for CNN in 2020. “They work as nurses, hospitality staff, nannies and cleaners. Last year, they sent $33.5 billion back to the Philippines in personal remittances — a record high, according to the country’s central bank. But their income comes at a high personal cost. Mothers can miss out on entire childhoods. Sometimes their relationship with their children remains damaged and distant, years after they return.”
While Lexie did not intend to come off as insensitive or disingenuous, her videos about Elena generated a conversation about the often unjust treatment of Filipino migrants and domestic workers, who, after dedicating large portions of their lives to the families they’re aiding, are discarded or shipped back home when no longer of use. Whether or not that’s the case with Lexie’s family remains unclear, but the story about a Filipino overseas worker who, for whatever reason, fails to gain citizenship in the country she sacrificed so much to work in isn’t an anomaly.
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