A 29-year-old woman is facing backlash for uploading a TikTok video of her undocumented Filipino nanny returning to the Philippines after 30 years of working for her family.
Lexie Jayy, a model and content creator based in Los Angeles, posted a video on May 11 where she shares her childhood memories of growing up with her Filipino nanny Elena, who she joins as she returns to the Philippines.
“She got me ready for my first day of preschool, moved me into my college dorm and everything in between,” Lexie recalls in the now-deleted video. “So taking her back to the Philippines was something I could not have wanted to do more.”
“It had been over 30 years since nanny had last been to the Philippines,” the content creator explains. “She sacrificed raising her son and daughter to get a job in America and sent every dollar she could back home to her family.”
Lexie describes Elena as “the smiliest, happiest, person [she’s] ever met.” The video then goes on to show the two making their way through the LAX airport and holding hands while on board the plane to the Philippines.
“Will nanny’s family take good care of her? Will they resent me? Will she fit in? Will she be homesick for America?” Lexie says.
The TikTok ends with their arrival at Elena’s home, where Lexie meets Elena’s children and asks viewers to “stay tuned for part two, my time in the Philippines.”
There are no federal laws protecting “domestic servants”. This is indentured servitude. And she’s selling this as a cute story when it’s an absolute tragedy. pic.twitter.com/VuliPqRg7V
— Suki’s Mom (@zukosmadre) May 17, 2023
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What appears to have been made as a touching TikTok for Elena soon became a controversial video that has been described as “tone deaf” by many viewers who debated the ethics of economic inequalities, migrant labor and exploitation.
Viewers expressed sadness for the nanny who could not see her family for over three decades. Many also criticized Lexie’s family for not securing legal immigration status for Elena over the years.
“There are no federal laws protecting ‘domestic servants,’” a Twitter user wrote. “This is indentured servitude. And she’s selling this as a cute story when it’s an absolute tragedy.”
“You had a stay-at-home nanny that worked for your family for three decades, yet you say America did not allow her to stay longer. So you’re telling me within 30 years, no one helped her get a work visa so she could get a green card? …This doesn’t sound right,” a TikTok user said.
Other social media users also accused Lexie of continuing to “exploit” Elena by creating the TikTok video.
“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,” one person said.
“The level of her lack of awareness and glaring privilege in that video was concerning to say the least. It was so sad,” another viewer commented.
However, other viewers argued that critics were “blowing [the video] out of proportion,” noting that the situation is common.
“Illegal aliens as servants for the rich are common, and often willingly. Some are treated reasonably well. The system may be unfortunate, but probably not this particular family,” one user said.
“So this is an alarming situation, but not one that's uncommon,” another person reiterated. “What's interesting to me about this thread is no one is asking the woman what she actually feels. People often make this sacrifice for their kids – yes, it sucks but living in poverty in the Philippines is worse.”
In response to the backlash, Lexie deleted the post and shared an apology video on Sunday.
In the video, the 29-year-old says she recorded a video explaining Elena’s immigration process and employment. However, she claims that Elena requested her not to share that information on TikTok.
“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.”
The woman goes on to explain that Elena was receiving a “competitive wage” from her family, adding that Elena had chosen to work with her family over the years.
“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 continues, agreeing with “how broken the immigration process is.”
Lexie then apologizes to viewers for coming off as “insensitive, ingenuine or negative and hurtful.”
“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.”
Viewers have since accused Lexie of having a public relations consultant write her apology. TikTok users also continued to call out Lexie and her family for not providing Elena sponsorship while working for them.
In 2013, NPR reported that Filipinos make up about “15 percent or as many as 300,000 of the approximately 2 million domestic workers in the United States.” With the Philippines struggling to provide sufficient jobs for its people, many Filipinos head overseas to work, leaving their families behind in order to support them financially.