This month has been a whirlwind for Amara La Negra.
The Dominican-American singer, born Dana Danelys De Los Santos, knew appearing on Love & Hip Hop Miami would give her sudden fame. However, the conversation she's sparked about colorism in the entertainment industry was unexpected for everyone watching.
That is, everyone besides Amara herself.
On the VH1 reality show, the 27-year-old faced off with Young Hollywood, a producer she considers working with, who informs Amara that her Afro-centric look is too "intense" to make it in the music biz. The uncomfortable conversation played out in the first episode, creating a ton of social media buzz, think pieces and interviews with Amara to dissect an issue that's as old as colonialization.
"You have to understand that he's [Young Hollywood] unfortunately, one of many people in the entertainment industry that have been brainwashed into thinking that there's a certain standard of beauty in order to make it in any aspect of the entertainment industry," Amara told ESSENCE.
"It's sad but I'm not angry. I just feel a little bit more upset at the fact that there's so much ignorance about us Latinos —that there's not enough of us out there in the mainstream. And you can't blame them if they have no knowledge of us, 'cause nobody has really spoken about us."
When Amara says "us," she's referring to Afro-Latinos, people who came to the Caribbean, South America and Hispaniola through the African slave trade — the same people that contributed to the entire identity of these same regions by fiercely preserving their rich culture in the "new" world.
And while her contemporaries may have straight hair and lighter features, Amara refuses to cower. Protecting and uplifting her Blackness is of utmost importance.
"To be honest, I think that in the Latin community itself, I didn't have many people to admire or to look up to. There weren't a lot of people that looked like myself," she said about musical role models.
"If we did have someone that truly became my idol, I'd definitely have to say that it was Celia Cruz. She was everything that I wanted to be. She was beautiful, she was talented, she worked her way up to be respected. I would love to be an inspiring new version of her in 2018 of girls that look like myself, 'cause they don't have anybody to look up to."
Having traveled the globe spreading her message of inclusivity, we too think she’s on the right path the inspiring the same way Celia did.