When I was an intern at Latina Magazine I had the opportunity to be in a focus group where representation was the main discussion. I found myself thinking about role models in the Latino community I grew up with and found my mind going blank. I never felt connected or represented in the media.
Everyone talked about Jennifer Lopez, but I couldn’t relate. Of course I grew up listening to Jennifer Lopez and falling in love with the biopic of Selena, but I never felt a close connection.
But last year, I began to find people I can look up to. Whether it was individuals, tv shows or even books, I found myself learning more about my culture, myself and my aspirations.
I thought of these four individuals who’ve motivated me in some point in my life in becoming a powerful, successful Latina:
- Gina Rodriguez
I talk about Gina Rodriguez constantly – Exhibit A & B. I didn’t know who Gina was until I watched her speech when she won Best Actress In A Television Series Musical or Comedy at the 2015 Golden Globes. It was emotional, inspirational and influenced my decision to binge watch Jane The Virgin immediately.
From there, I fell in love with her positivity, her passion for her craft and her take on numerous topics I’ve touched upon on this blog. (i.e. Body Positivity, Latino Representation, etc). She also takes the time to highlight People of Color on Instagram using the hashtag #MovementMondays.
She inspires me to get the most out of life whether it’s my career goals, my life goals and beyond. The motto she shares with her father ‘Today’s going to be a great day. I can and I will.’ resonates with me to move past my neighborhood and push away stereotypes plagued by the Latino community similar to what Gina did.
She’s also the nicest human being in the world.
2. Denise Bidot
I’ve also talked a lot about Denise Bidot. (Seeing a pattern here?) In my junior year of undergrad, I came across Denise when I was working on an assignment. At the time, my fashion blog focused on people breaking barriers in the fashion industry. In 2015, she became the first Latina plus size model on the runway for CHROMAT.
I’ve always been aware of the lack of diversity in the fashion industry. However, this was the first time I saw a prominent plus size model walking the runway. I saw someone with curves and a body like mine. She helped me learn to appreciate the body I was given.
Today was my last day at @latina and it was one of the best days of my life. I've learned so much from being an intern there. It was inspiring to be surrounded by other Latinas writing about Latinas. I worked with editors, assistants and interns that taught me to be a better writer, editor and person. It also gave me the opportunity to meet @denisebidot again and tell her how inspirational she's been in my life on loving myself and being confident in my skin. She, along with people like @hereisgina and #linmanuelmiranda have become inspirational and successful Puerto Ricans to look up to. I will always remember the stepping stones you've gave me. So thank you @latina for giving me the opportunity of a lifetime. #IAmLatina #thereisnowrongwaytobeawoman #internlife
When I met her, I had to hold back tears because I got the chance to express how much she meant to me and how represented I felt. I’ve struggled with body image for so long and here was someone feeling confident in their own skin. She continues to promote body positivity and confidence in women with her campaign There Is No Wrong Way To Be A Woman.
3. Lin-Manuel Miranda
I couldn’t write a post about representation and not include Lin-Manuel Miranda. Aside from the obvious of creating two well-known broadway shows, In The Heights and a small production called Hamilton…he has opened the doors for representation in the arts.
This man has a Pulitzer Prize, two Grammys, a MacArthur Fellowship, three Tonys, and so much more. He is the epitome of striving for greatness.
Aside from his productions and countless awards, Lin continues to speak out on the debt plaguing Puerto Rico. He continues to fight for a country he visited every summer when he was a child.
He inspires me to have a passion for my craft and continue to work hard. He also inspires me to think outside of the box. Who would’ve thought a musical based on U.S. Secretary Alexander Hamilton in the style of hip hop and rap would be one of the most popular broadway shows in broadway history?
4. Noelle Santos
Now, Noelle Santos might not seem like a name you know like the other three. I’ve only learned about her recently, but I have a feeling her name is going to get big.
Remember not every role model has to be a celebrity or a family member. Roles models come in all forms and I saw that in Noelle.
When I heard she wanted to make a bookstore in the Bronx, I was ecstatic. I never saw someone fight for something in my borough like this before. I had the opportunity to attend her book club and I was fortunate to see how inspiring she can be.
If Noelle isn’t running her crowdfund, she’s planning for her book club, working full-time or basically living her life.
Here’s a college-educated Afro-Latina from the Bronx who’s taking a dream of hers and making it come true.
I believe my list is still growing. I continue to see powerful Puerto Ricans striving to make a difference in their respected platforms and I hope to create my own path alongside them.
It’s important to search for positive influences in your life. We can get so caught up with the outside of a person without looking for role models who are focusing on projects they’re passion about and paving the way for others to follow.