Milana Vayntrub Made People Smile With Her Cute AT&T Commercials. Now She's Sharing Her Experience As A Refugee.

“For everyone who’s new here: Welcome. You’re not alone.”

Milana Vayntrub admits that her refugee experience was quite different from those seeking asylum today. Still, she shares something with each of them that is unique to the refugee experience past or present.

"My family fled religious persecution in the Soviet Union," the actress and comedian best known for her series of AT&T commercials told A Plus about leaving her homeland for the United States at the tender age of 3.

Although she was so young, she can vividly remember feeling like the "other" among American children.

"When you're a kid you're constantly comparing yourself to other people because that's how you understand what normal is," she said in a video for Lives of Women, an intimate portrait series that showcases the voices, thoughts, and experiences of women.

But the feeling of being an outsider was short-lived due to the upbringing she had in the States.

"I grew up with lots of kids whose parents were from somewhere else," the This Is Us actress told A Plus. "Eventually, I understood that most people secretly love a strange food that stinks up the classroom, and every kid's embarrassed by something that makes them stand out when they desperately want to fit in. I think when I understood that we're all equally weirdos, is when I stopped feeling alone and started feeling at home."

Twenty-seven years after arriving in the United States, she can reflect on her own refugee experience with the children that are going through it today.



Photo Courtesy of Lives of Women
Photo Courtesy of Lives of Women

"There is no general message for every refugee child because their reason for coming here and journey can vary so drastically," she explained.

While it was religious persecution that drove her family away from their home, she added, "Other refugees are literally running from chemical attacks from their government."

With the current administration in place and the spotlight on the refugee experience today, no matter how negative it may be, Vayntrub said it has raised awareness of what's really going on in our world.

"If anything, the current administration has awoken, in some people, a deeper compassion and curiosity in the lives of people from different parts of the world," she said. "There's a thirst for information about the world's political climate that didn't exist in the same way before. There are more people actively working for refugee rights than ever before."

As a refugee herself, Vayntrub sends messages of love to those forced to leave their homeland today and are adjusting to American life.

"For everyone who's new here: Welcome. You're not alone," she said.

Check out her story in the video below:

Cover image via Lives of Women

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