Amara La Negra is more than just a talented music artist. The Dominican-American activist has become a voice for the Afro-Latino community and really wants to make a difference for disenfranchised communities. In fact, she recently got involved with the Cielo Benefit Gala, an annual fundraiser benefiting the Latino Commission on AIDS, to help bring awareness to and break some of the stigmas and negative misconceptions still associated with the disease.
The Cielo Benefit Gala takes place on Friday, June 1, 2018 and brings together members of the health, business, government, entertainment, and philanthropic sectors to raise funds for advancing the health of the Latino community. This year, they asked Amara to participate in the gala as ambassador of Latino Commission on AIDS. This was not only an honor but especially important to the singer, who recently lost a close friend to AIDS.
“When it comes to AIDS, there are a lot of people that are misinformed. This condition can really happen to any of us,” she exclusively tells Hiplatina. “It doesn’t matter if you’re a good person or if you’re a bad person, if you’re young or if you’re old—anybody can get AIDS and it’s important for us to educate others if we know about it and show our support.”
While a lot of progress and advances have certainly been made when it comes to AIDS and HIV, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention the condition continues to be a serious health threat to the Latino community. In 2015, Latinos accounted for one quarter of all new diagnoses of HIV in the states. “Not only are they already going through so many health issues and worrying about how their body feels and everything, but many times they get misjudged or mistreated by a lot of people who are ignorant about the topic. That’s why it’s so important for all of us to get together and support this and also educate other people about it,” she says passionately.
The 27-year-old singer wants to let folks know that she’s more than just a beautiful face. Amara is a woman for the people making it her mission to help marginalized people finally be seen. She’s already done a lot of work raising the visibility of the Afro-Latino community and is very vocal about her identity and the confusion that so often surrounds people’s perceptions of what it means to be Latinx and/or black.
Amara made headlines after the first episode of Love & Hip Hop: Miami premiered when she was confronted by producer Young Hollywood (Elijah Alexander Sárraga) about her looks and he asked her to be “more Beyoncé and less Macy Gray” in reference to her natural afro. She also educated radio host Charlamagne Tha God about colorism within the Latinx community on an episode of The Breakfast Club. She been super outspoken on the subject and she doesn’t plan on stopping any time soon.
“I am honored that people have made me the voice of the Afro-Latino community. I do understand that there are a lot of other Afro-Latinos who have also voiced their opinions and are also coming together to express themselves and try to make a difference. I never want people to feel like I’m just trying to get credit for it,” says Amara. “I am grateful and honored. It’s an amazing feeling to know that people look up to me and that they admire me and understand what I’m standing for because it’s more than just myself. It’s about a whole community that has felt ignored for a very long time.”
The obstacles and struggles Amara has experienced due to being Afro-Latina, misunderstood and underrepresented is what inspires her to speak out. “We aren’t treated equally, especially in the entertainment industry, which is the reason why I started fighting for this because there’s a need. There’s a lack of representation when it comes to the Afro-Latino community in soap operas, on magazine covers, in movies and it’s not because we’re not talented,” she says. “We’re just not given the same opportunities. We still have a long way to go but I’m just grateful that we’ve been able to at least start this conversation.”
Amara has already broken a ton of barriers herself. This year she graced the cover of Latina magazine, Rolling Out magazine, NYSFE, and was included in People en Español’s 50 Más Bellos 2018. In January, she landed a multi-album record deal with BMG Records. But she still believes more progress needs to be made.
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BREAKING BARRIERS! at @Latina Magazine This is Such a Huge Moment For the #AfroLatino Community ,for any girl they may look up to me. For anyone that can relate. Representation Matters! But Nothing is Impossible! Thank you @latina for Making me the Cover of your magazine. ——————————————————————— ¡ROMPIENDO BARRERAS! Gracias a @Latina Magazine Este es un gran momento para la comunidad #AfroLatino, para cualquier chica que me admire. Para cualquiera que pueda relacionarse a mi sentir. ¡La representación importa! ¡Pero nada es imposible! Es todo un honor para mi Gracias @latina por hacerme la portada de tu revista.
“I still want to see more difference when it comes to movies, I want to see more people that look like myself in movies for the Latino community but also in the American ones as well. I want to see more telenovelas where they have women and men that look like myself and aren’t just the best friends of the main characters or the maids or drug addicts,” she says. “Why isn’t it possible that the main character in a telenovela falls in love with a woman who looks like myself? What is wrong with me? I definitely want to be able to see more representation of the Afro-Latino community in a positive light.”
In late January, there was some controversy and misunderstandings around a comment Amara had made on the topic of colorism. In case you’re not sure what colorism means, it’s basically prejudice against individuals with darker skin tones and tends to be especially prevalent among people of the same racial or ethnic group. In that same episode of The Breakfast Club with Charlamagne Tha God, Amara explained the privilege that lighter skinned Latinas like Cardi B, Jennifer Lopez, Shakira, or Sofia Vergara experience and how they are more accepted in society because of it. At no point did she say these women didn’t work hard or struggle. She just brought up the benefits that come with being a Latina with lighter skin than hers and how colorism is a real problem within the Latinx community.
That said, there are also Afro-Latinas like Princess Nokia and Rosario Dawson who are denied their identity by some who say they are not “black enough” because they don’t have dark enough skin or tight enough curls. For the record: No one has the right to police someone else’s identity. Afro-Latina identity is about your roots and your ancestry more than your physical features, something a lot of folks—including Latinos themselves—don’t seem to understand. Megan Markle has fair skin and freckles but that doesn’t make her any less black. Amara agrees that ignorance plays a huge role in why people can’t seem to wrap their heads around this identity.
“Yes, you can be black and you can be Latina at the same time. We come from African descent and that doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to be as dark as I am. My mother is lighter than me and she’s also an Afro-Latina. I have uncles and aunts that are lighter than I am and they also are Afro-Latinos,” she says. “It just means you come from African descent. I think that a lot of people get confused because something that I’ve clarified on several occasions is when you come to the United States, the system here is different. You’re kind of boxed…I just feel we need to get together as a whole—as a community and really uplift each other, support each other and show people that don’t know about us our culture.”
The importance of representation starts at a young age and Amara understands that. She experienced her first encounters with colorism as a young contestant on Sabado Gigante when she won “Miss Chiquitita” at just 4-years-old. She’s currently working on a children’s book that touches on racial identity and an inclusive doll collection that is set to launch in December in Walmart and Target. The doll collection features dolls of various skin tones and hair textures.
“I will slowly be adding new dolls. I really want to work on an albino baby for my collection,” she says. “I’m all about representation and representation is so important. Even for little girls, there’s so much pressure to look a certain type of way: to have a perfect body, your hair needs to look like this and your skin needs to be a certain way. I want them to learn at a very early age to love themselves and know that they are beautiful just the way they are, just like their dolls. I don’t just talk about it, I’m really about it. I’m trying to make a difference in this world, you know? And just putting in that work.”