I have been contributing with HipLatina for about a year and a half now. Every week, this seventeen-year-old latina (who happens to think she’s hip) has shared her point of view on just about everything from pet adoption, to feminism, body image issues, trust, resilience and overcoming life’s obstacles. But I don’t live in a bubble. I know my opinions and point of view are my own, but I am well aware that they have also been shaped and influenced by amazing women I look up to and admire.
So, during these next five weeks, I invite you to “meet” these strong-willed, amazing Puerto Rican women who are making a difference for women today, and generations to come.
She walked in through the glass door at the restaurant we were meeting at and automatically her presence was felt in the environment. Her bright colors shone through the gray accents on the wall, and her commanding smile grasped the attention of every man and woman who sat near her. Known for her intricate and extense career as a journalist, and now by her outstanding role in empowering women Byankah Soba is an entrepreneur and all around kick-ass latina.
Born in Vieques, Puerto Rico, this natural-born communicator was destined for greatness. In the fourth grade, a “career day” presentation at Byankah’s school woke up a sense of confusion and infuriation in her about how society negatively viewed different professions. Initially, a dream that consisted of being a Forensic Pathologist sent her straight to the school Psychologist and woke up an open-minded female who already wanted to change others perceptions and break standards and stereotypes. But it wasn’t until high school that her future started taking shape. Struggles and challenges with her maths skills brought her closer to her passion for writing. Inspired by the many notebooks that Byankah would go through, Byankah’s mother encouraged her to turn her love for composition into a career in Communications.
A career that spans over two decades, as a publicist, journalist, and radio and a TV personality prepared her and further set the stage for her next big feat, her book Hay Mucha Flaca Fea (which roughly translates into There’s a lot of Ugly Thin Women). The book launched and awoke the masses. Her message resonated with so many women who had felt the same way and had been shamed into silence for so long. Her incredible social media following was always a group of support throughout Byankah’s career and accomplishments, and this new project was no different. Byankah speaks of how equally important it is for her to know that her work is making a difference in the lives of others, as well that her follower’s stories also make a difference in the way she writes, lives, and continues to pursue her career as a motivator. She’s very aware of the responsibility of having an audience and working in the communications industry, “people look up to you and feel confident in your credibility.” It sounds like it could be taxing, but she finds it rewarding nonetheless: “people want to be heard, they want to be understood, not judged. They want to be accepted. They want to find, in their hearts, that they are really being supported,” and that speaks to her purpose.
The collection of stories that make up her new book are a reflection of the reality of so many other women who have battled with self-image and body issues. Her book is considered a haven amongst the groups of women who have endeavored in their journey to self-love. Byankah views her book as “a tool to restore bruised self-esteem,” and her audience shares her vision. And the book is only the beginning. Her plans extend beyond the pages of her book into strategies to reach more females of different age groups to battle self-confidence issues and awaken the Girl Boss inside them. All you have to do is listen to the passion that future plans ignite in her and how her eyes widen in excitement to know that the future is fantastic, and Byankah is leading the way.
Byankah, like many other women, is making an effort to teach happiness, self-love, and confidence in a way that is from women to women. A woman who has gone through pain, through struggle, and insecurities, gives other women the platform to open up about theirs. With Byankah, it has never been about how she went through something (and she has been very open about her life; it’s about how she can help you get through what you’re going through and be by your side as you succeed to do so. It takes a strong woman to build strong women, and Byankah’s efforts will never go unnoticed. She has inspired me to be accepting, of myself just as much as others. To keep in mind that someone may be going through something similar and we need to sympathize. Her strength has taught me that resilience is critical and that no matter the struggle, all is possible with a right attitude and even better support.
Four quick questions before you go!
How would you describe yourself in one sentence?
I am a person who is very passionate about the causes I believe in. Very dedicated to the people I love, and very transparent.
Who inspires you?
Oprah is the love of my life. Oprah is a woman; she is a journalist, a businesswoman, she is black. She had all the negative stigmas, and all odds were against her. She is a giver of love and hope for so many and so many girls. She is a firm believer in education for girls; a lover of books. I admire her so much.
One piece of advice to Hispanic women.
Love yourselves! Know that you are capable of accomplishing anything. It has nothing to do with your looks, with your accent, the color of your skin or your shade of brown. Color is not a race, and that our country of origin is something we carry in our hearts. It’s not a matter of geography, and everything that we do speaks of who we are, but also speaks of our country.
What do you want to be legacy?
That people become conscious of having to love themselves first. It sounds so trivial, so illogical or romantic, but maybe common sense is the least common of all senses. It’s almost biblical; love thy neighbor…if you don’t love yourself, how are you going to love anybody else? That is the foundation. We have to love ourselves and value ourselves. We need to know that the person you see in the mirror is a being of light and that we’re capable of accomplishing anything.