Photo: Instagram/amaralanegraaln
Culture

12 Things Amara La Negra Has Taught Us About Afro-Latinx Identity & Colorism

Amara La Negra has taken every opportunity to school the world on Afro-Latinx identity and colorism from the moment she burst onto the pop culture scene on VH1’s Love & Hip Hop: Miami. It hasn’t been an easy job but the entertainer continues to rise to the occasion and making the world a better place because of it. Here are 12 times she has educated her audience on these incredibly important topics:

1. You can be Black AND Latinx.

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 told HipLatina. “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.”

2. You don’t need an afro to be Afro-Latinx.

This may seem straightforward but this was a myth that La Negra had to clarify on The Breakfast Club. “I can say I’m Latina — even if I had an Afro, didn’t have an Afro — I mean I’m still Afro-Latina because I’m from African descent,” she said. “So that’s what it is.” 

3. Afro-Latinxs are all over Latin America.

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La Negra is Dominican but she recognizes that colorism and lack of representation is widespread. “I’ve had it all. I mean, it’s hard because—and I always mention these women, they’re amazing women, and I admire them, I really do—but it’s unfortunate that when you talk about Latinos, you talk about Jennifer Lopez, Shakira, Sofia Vergara, Thalia,” she shared on The Real. “You talk about these women that look a certain type of way but you never mention women that look like myself. And there isn’t a Latin country where you don’t have Afro-Latinos. Colombia, Venezuela, Chile, Honduras, it doesn’t matter where you go, there’s black people. But why aren’t we portrayed in the magazines? Why aren’t we in movies? Why aren’t we in novelas or soap operas? What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I represent what a Latina woman should look like? That’s really what bothers me.” 

4. Afro-Latinxs and African Americans face many of the same prejudices in this country.

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La Negra learned from an early age that people would react to her differently based on the color of her skin. “You know when you’re walking down the sidewalk and people who don’t look like us are holding tight to their purses,” she told Allure. “And anytime there are cops, I go into a total panic because even though I’m Afro-Latina, we feel the same fears as the African-American community. Until you talk to us, you don’t know that we’re Latino. We’re seen as black and we have the same fears. I’ve felt the pressure all my life.” 

5. Colorism keeps Afro-Latinx people from opportunities in entertainment.

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In an infuriating interview with The Breakfast Club La Negra explained the disappointing feedback she got at auditions. “I went to do an audition for a Latin soap opera and they told me I had a special look. ‘Special look’ means you’re Black. I had somebody tell me, ‘honestly because you’re so cool, I’m gonna tell you the truth. If we have any roles like a prostitute or a gangster or maybe if we do a slave soap opera we’ll definitely have you in mind.’” We can’t even imagine how crushing that must have been for her. But the industry has shown a very obvious preference for light-skinned Latinas. “If you’re Latina, you have to look like J.Lo, Sofia Vergara, Shakira etc., but when you look like me, it’s, ‘You don’t look Latina enough,'” she explained to the hosts. “Why aren’t we on magazines? Why aren’t we on movies? It bothers me. I don’t think you should change the way you look to succeed. It’s my place to let people know, ‘Hey, you are beautiful.'” 

6. The lack of Afro-Latinxs that look like Amara La Negra in entertainment needs to end.

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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 told HipLatina. “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.” 

7. Children are not protected from the ignorance in the entertainment industry.

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La Negra’s mother was faced with a painful decision when her daughter was just a kid on the hit variety show Sabado Gigante. “I always recall this one specific moment when I was getting my hair done at the TV station and the hairstylist told my mom I needed to get my hair permed because it wasn’t manageable and they didn’t have time for that,” she told Allure. Her mother ultimately decided to perm her hair. Fortunately, the experience didn’t break her. Now the afro that La Negra proudly rocks has extra meaning. 

8. Parents should start empowering their Afro-Latinx children from a young age.

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La Negra’s mother played a huge role in her daughter loving the skin she’s in and didn’t sugarcoat the challenges she would face as a woman of color. “My mom is everything. She built me the way that I am and made sure that I always knew that my color was beautiful,” she told Yahoo Lifestyle. “She always would tell me, ‘Because of your color, you’re always going to have to work twice as hard to be recognized for your work.’ I never understood it until years later—and she was right.” 

9. Having a role model that looks like you can change your life.

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In a world where there are so few Afro-Latinxs in the media, Celia Cruz was extremely important to women who look like her, and that was the case for La Negra. “In the Latin community, she was the only Afro-Latino who made it worldwide, and she was like our Michael Jackson,” she told Yahoo Lifestyle. “Celia Cruz was the only Afro-Latino that looked like myself and made me think, ‘Oh my God. You know, when I grow up, I can be like her.’” 

10. Many Afro-Latinxs are afraid to speak out about colorism.

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When asked if she thought Cardi B’s success had something to do with having lighter skin on The Breakfast Club, La Negra revealed the fear many members of the Afro-Latinx community have. “The concept is not the same,” La Negra said. “Even looking at social media, and reading the comments, I know I’m not the only one. Others have said, ‘We felt it, we just didn’t want to say anything, we felt comfortable staying in the shadows.’ I don’t. You have to take the good with the bad and I’ve been hit with backlash, but I’ll take it.” 

11. Building a thick skin will help keep your confidence intact.

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Growing up in a world where you feel like you are not seen and even openly mocked like La Negra was on Love & Hip Hop: Miami requires a special kind of mental toughness. “It’s come to the point where I don’t even acknowledge when people look at me,” she told Latina. “I’ve learned to block the negativity in order to preserve my self-confidence.” 

12. Being loud and proud of your Afro-Latinidad can make the world of a difference.

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La Negra embraces her identity down to her stage name and is using her platform to help eradicate the ignorance that exists around the world about Afro-Latinxs. The more people that follow in her brave footsteps, the more opportunities will be created to educated people about the Afro-Latinx community. La Negra has proven that this is clearly needed.