Happy New Year! This year TALL District’s motto is ‘Stand Tall.’ As a result, we will highlight people that stand tall in their every day life (height is not a requirement). First up is ‘Amara La Negra’.
Last year I had an opportunity to write for Naturally Curly. I wrote about my experience as a #tall Latina with visibly African heritage (Afro-Latina), and tight curls. A combination that really confuses people. I mean really confuses them. People go from ‘Wow, you’re so tall’ to ‘Did you say your last name is Gonzalez? How did you get that last name? Are you Married? That last question really gets my goat.
I was reminded of the Naturally Curly article and the Afro Latina experience last week while on vacation.
While channel surfing on vacation I came across VH1’s new Love & Hip Hop Miami (LHHM) premiere where breakout star Amara La Negra, a proud Latina of African descent is essentially told that she needs to de-Africanize her look in order to make it in the Latin entertainment industry as a singer.
Saying that to Amara is right up there with someone coming up to a tall girl who is wearing heels and saying ‘you look ridiculous wearing heels’. It’s hurtful, it’s wrong, it’s ignorant, and it’s unnecessary. Just because someone has limited knowledge of a specific heritage, culture, or experience does not give them the right to make fun of or put someone down for it. So yes, some of us can say that our Spanish is black. We can also say that our Spanish is native to the land we were born in, and is a combination of heritage, race and culture.
So I salute Amara for ‘Standing Tall’ in her pride as a Latina of African descent. I want to hug her for speaking up about something that is largely overlooked within our own Latin culture. Colorism exists. I actually dealt with colorism during my trip to Cuba last year, and have seen the effects of colorism when I visit home (Panama). It’s quite ridiculous if you ask me because, unless you’re a native of the land you’re mixed. It is most likely that you’re tan or bronze complexion is a blessing from your African ancestry. Nonetheless, Amara is not only beautiful on the inside and out, she is also courageous and she is hilarious. #besos to Amara. Her mommy is beautiful and funny as well. I love the love she has for her mommy!!!
I’m not a Love & Hip Hop fan. However, I will be tuning into the #LHH Miami series. The truth is I will be watching because I want to see how Amara blossoms and succeeds. She’s like a young Celia Cruz. Her music is awesome and she is the type of woman Celia Cruz is singing about in one of her biggest hits ‘La Negra Tiene Tumbao…#Azucar.’ Go Amara! We’re rooting for you.
Here’s a link to my Naturally Curly article where I talk about my experience growing up a tall Latina. You can also scroll down for the article.
Naturally Curly article
How I Found All The Confidence in My Height, Heritage and Hair
There’s this intersection between my height, hair and heritage. An intersection where my 5’11 stature, brown skin, tight curly hair, and last name Gonzalez come together in a way that makes it hard for people to pinpoint where I’m from or who I am.
“I am essentially a walking contradiction, not fitting any stereotype associated with my height, heritage or hair.”
I am expected to be shorter with long silky curls, a lighter complexion, and smaller lips because I am a Latina.
With that said, I wish I could sit here and say that my hair type didn’t matter, that I had a great hair experience, but the truth is my hair texture made me feel less confident during my childhood and well into my teen years. I truly believed for the longest time that my experience as a Latina would have been different if I would have had looser, silkier curls and long hair. I wanted to have a complexion like my mom and hair like my Panamanian childhood friend. She was pageant ready with her lighter complexion and long dark silky curls, and here I was this long, lanky, caramel drop with wooly hair. No amount of salsa dancing, arroz con pollo eating, or Spanish-speaking could change how people treated me. I was always immediately labeled as African-American, except I wasn’t born in this country nor were my parents. I was called bald-headed and experienced a few nightmare styles because my poor mother did not know what to do with my hair. I was even teased about my big ole lips.
Now, you would think I would be more concerned with my height but my height experience was different and positive. My mom is tall, so I felt normal and had tons of height confidence growing up. However, while I still look like my mother to this day, I was not light enough nor did I have her hair type.
As a result, it took years before I really learned to embrace it and take good care of it. As soon as I figured out how to take care of it, it grew and I realized that my hair was more like my mother’s than not, it just needed proper care. This hair ‘love affair’ took place during my college years when I attended Florida A & M University (Go FAMU!).
I was filled with black pride during my college years and that pride extended itself to my hair. I learned self-love and appreciation in ways that showed up in my fashion choices, my hair style, and my overall confidence.
During college at FAMU, before really entering into corporate America, my fight was to be the best of the brightest, to beat the competition. I was not assigned the unwritten rule and task of representing the entire diaspora of black folks which resulted in such a liberating and educational collegiate experience. That bubble burst when I entered corporate America. I was in for such a culture shock. I used my height and hair as a rebellion against the corporate norm because of that. A corporate norm that meant my natural state, my hair especially, was not acceptable.
It was my way of saying I am here in all of my glory. I wore twists, my afro, braids, etc., All while in a finance program at a bank. I eventually switched it up because A) curly hair is so transformative, and B) I also became client interfacing and the desire to succeed in my career without dealing with snide remarks and awkward looks was more important than rebelling against the ignorance about my hair.
Side bar: For those who don’t understand why we are not here for others wearing our hairstyles like braids and such, this is the reason why. When we, as black women, wear these same hairstyles we are told it is unprofessional or it used as justification for keeping us from advancing. Celebrating one group while degrading the other group for the same style is the problem. I digress.
My personal and professional experiences have taught me that no hair texture, length, growth, weight loss, skin complexion or job will ever determine, nor should it ever determine a persons self-worth. None of those things matter to the most high so it is pointless to beat yourself up over it. I think realizing that God loves me no matter what my height, color, background, or silly hair type is has made it easier to love myself.
We all deserve love, especially from ourselves. I believe every single woman should take the time to really learn to love herself.
Girl date yourself.
I did it and I discovered some pretty cool things about myself. There is an actual poet who resides within me. I have tried every type of food, went to all kinds of restaurants and eventually decided to become a vegan. I went to concerts, jumped out of a plane, etc.,. So to all of my beautiful curly haired ladies love every curl, every ounce of what makes you you and love on you as much as you can stand. That kind of self love really does open up the door for others to love you too. Discover the beauty in your bounce. It is a beautiful thing.
To read more of J. Enovy’s body positivity experience, check out her blog Tall District.