The Beauty of Being Latina: Why Diverse Representation in Media Matters

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This year’s #WeAllGrow Summit keynote panel, The Beauty of Being Latina: Why Diverse Representation of Our Community Matters in Media and Ads, was made possible by our title sponsor Dove. Moderated by Carolina Contreras of Miss Rizos Salón and featuring stellar panelists Jillian Mercado, Shakira Barrera, Nolwen Cifuentes and Rosie Molinary, the conversation centered around Latinx representation by the media and why it matters.

In keeping with the theme of this year’s Summit – We Are Changemakers – panelists shared what inspired them not just to advocate for more and better representation in the media, but to use their careers and influence to create the change.

Here’s just a bit of what these women had to say about their commitment to a diverse representation of our community …

Carolina Contreras

Carolina Contreras is the founder of Miss Rizos Salón, one of the first natural hair salons in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.

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Imagine walking into the toy section of a store and not seeing a doll that looks like you. Imagine watching telenovelas all of your life and noticing that none of the protagonistas look like you. Imagine being enamored by all of the Disney princesses only to realize that none of them have your kinks and your coils. Imagine going to the supermarket and as you’re helping mami with the groceries, you notice that none of those beautiful models on the covers of magazines are brown like you. Imagine being a movie buff and a comic book addict and noticing that none of the leads and the superheroines look like you. Imagine excitedly walking through the hair product aisles in stores and seeing that none of the products or tools were made for you. I grew up thinking that there was obviously something terribly wrong with me. I didn’t know then what I know now and I felt like my mother felt and my mother’s mother felt – that I was born dañada de fábrica and I needed to be fixed.

Jillian Mercado

Jillian Mercado is a model and activist at the forefront of the new wave of models challenging beauty ideals and the lack of representation of people with disabilities in the fashion industry.

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I wanted to be an editor to hire people who looked like me because I didn’t see not a single soul out there in like the level that I thought they should be seen … My first gig was a world-wide Diesel campaign and seeing my poster on a boat in Venice, Italy –not California, Venice, Italy! I was like HOLY MOTHER OF GOD! And the amount of love and messages I got from people all around the world, I knew that what I thought my career was to be behind the scenes had to now be in front of the scenes because I had to pave the path of people with disabilities who had never seen themselves anywhere, period.

Shakira Barrera

Shakira Barrera is an actress, dancer and activist. She currently appears on the Emmy-nominated show “Glow” and “It’s Bruno.!”

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I became a Fanta girl at 19 and I didn’t know that acting was a job. I grew up with two moms: one of them from Nicaragua, another one from Cuba. I’m first generation. They had no clue that this was actually a career. When I became a Fanta girl it was the first time I used my voice to speak in front of the camera and it was the first time that I knew this was actually a job. Like wow! A campaign, a commercial with my face. At the time I was in college, going through a lot of insecurities and I think that my breakthrough moment was when I realized that I had to step up because the opportunity was there and they wanted me. So it was me accepting that I was a Fanta girl and I had to keep saying it to myself like “they want you, they want you, so you gotta get over it girl ‘cause you got the job.”

Nolwen Cifuentes

Nolwen Cifuentes is a Los Angeles-based photographer known for capturing a mix of raw and dreamy portraiture. Her interests lie in shifting social consciousness, breaking down gender norms and representation.

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The only reason I got into photography was to explore being not represented.

Rosie Molinary

Rosie Molinary is the author of “Beautiful You: A Daily Guide to Radical Self-Acceptance” and “Hijas Americanas: Beauty, Body Image, and Growing Up Latina.” She teaches at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte; serves as a national Dove Self-Esteem Project educator; offers workshops and retreats; and speaks on self-acceptance, body image, self-care, the Latina experience, non-profit management and intentional living.

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I started using journaling and reflection writing in my classroom a lot and that inspired me to go get a masters in fine arts and creative writing and over the course of that program I wrote a collection of non-fiction essays and poems that were about my coming of age experience through the lens of my ethnic identity, beauty perception and sort of perception of being a woman. And that book was called “Giving Up Beauty.” And at the end of my graduate experience, my final advisor came up to me and said, “Are you gonna publish?” I said, “No, I really belong in a classroom.” He said, “You have a pretty literal understanding of a classroom.” And he said, “Have you learned anything from a book?” And I was like, “Are you kidding? Books saved my life!” He said, “Yeah.” And he said, “Would you have felt better at 16 reading any of the stuff you just spent the last two years writing, would you have felt less lonely?”

At the end of the day, we all just want to be seen.

To watch this whole panel and so much more:

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