There's no Afro-Latina representation in Spanish-language media. Do you agree? (Video)

Photo: Ciro Gutierrez/PESP

Photo: Ciro Gutierrez/PESP

Last night I attended People Chica’s first ever Afro-Latina panel where Lala Anthony, Orange is the New Black’s Selenis Leyva and rapper Melii shared their stories. Shirley Velasquez, the digital executive editor of People en Español, moderated the panel.

During the Q&A, I addressed Shirley and said that as a blogger, publicist and consumer, I don’t see that Afro-Latinas are represented by Spanish-language publications such as PESP. Selenis agreed, jumped in and said, “No, were not!”

Watch the video below (sorry that it’s vertical) to hear how Shirley, Lala and Selenis responded to my question, or scroll below to read their response. Selenis mentioned that after seven seasons, no Spanish-language magazine has featured the Latina cast of OITNB on a cover- even after they asked! By the way, on Instagram Selenis told me, and I quote:

This was one of the highlights of evening ! If NOT THE highlight !! Asking a very real question! Why can’t our own media outlets support and uplift us? I can’t tell you how many times my team and the teams of some of the other actresses on #Oitnb approached , pitched and pleaded with Latino publications to give us a cover , a feature for us ALL and each time were refused , shut down , even as recent as the start of THIS year !! 7 seasons on a worldwide hit show, where finally we got to see different representation of latinas in ONE show .

Here’s how Shirley Velasquez, digital editor of PESP, responded:

“It’s still really shocking to me. How is it possible that in multicultural media there’s still a problem with invisibility? This panel – so many people cared about the mission in the office – but I basically was the one who was like, ‘I’m not going to go home and see my son. I’m going to stay in the office’ - and running up and down in closing - to make sure this happened. And I think it takes that kind of energy.

And you have a good point. It’s merited. We have a long history of invisibility. It’s not just in our office where we have to make this case. We have to make this case beyond. We have to make this case with people that we report to and say, ‘This is an important cover for us.’ It’s endless advocating. Endless.

And it’s something I am personally dedicated to. I don’t represent Afro-Latinas, but I have a very dark skinned brother. And if you look at a picture of our uncle you would see an Afro Latino. The issue of visibility is really important to me. And I’m going to tell you, that as long as I’m going to be here, I’m going to be working on this.”

Selenis Leyva responded by:

“And it shouldn’t be – oh, there’s this special. No, it should be the norm. One of the things with Orange is the New Black: We have different types of Latinas. Not only in color, but age and shape. And we did not get not one cover from our community. But Essence did this beautiful cover with the African-American actresses from Orange. And we’re still waiting for our cover. And it’s already Season 7.”

Lala then said:
”I feel the same sentiment. I appreciate being on this panel and having the opportunity to talk about this because there are so many times I haven’t felt supported. Same – I’ve been on the cover of Essence, Ebony and I love those magazines; they’re my favorite magazines. But it’s sad that I haven’t been on the cover or even featured on these magazines. Soo… I’m available. They’re available.”

Melii, the rapper, also said that it’s great to see celebrities like Amara La Negra getting love on the cover, but as a lighter skinned Afro-Latina, Melli often gets told she isn’t Afro-Latina enough.

afro latinas hispanic media.jpg

I have strong feelings about this topic as a blogger, publicist and consumer. It’s not just the general market that needs to get it together, much of our Hispanic community doesn’t get it either.

I love how many content creators are owning the conversation and spreading awareness more than ever. I hope the current interest brands, media and agencies all of a sudden have with Afro-Latinas isn’t just because it’s “trending” or because they now finally understand the buying power.

And it’s not just about the hair, curves, or even skin color. I’m sure it means many things to many different Latinas, but one thing we can all agree with is that Afro-Latinidad is about connecting to our roots. This isn’t a trend. We’ve/they’ve always existed and should be authentically represented across the board.

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