Miami People

Amara La Negra Is a Role Model for Afro-Latinas

Photo by Michael Campina

Amara La Negra comes across as a relentlessly, unapologetically positive figure. She constantly Instagrams herself dancing. She posts photos of the Halloween costumes that fans made to honor her. She stands on stages with her fist clutched defiantly in the air.

But the Miami-raised singer, actress, and reality TV star is open about the fact that she had to learn to love herself. Growing up, the now-28-year-old entertainer, who is of Dominican descent, says she rarely, if ever, saw figures in pop culture who looked, sounded, or acted like her.

In the U.S. and Latin American media, Afro-Latinas with dark skin and natural hair are, unfortunately, a rarity.

So this year, La Negra decided to fill a gaping hole in English- and Spanish-language pop culture by writing a children's book to help young Afro-Latinas feel better about themselves. Titled Amarita's Way, it's designed to help girls aged 7 to 10 find confidence. Chapters cover self-love and bonding with your mother, among other things. The book, which recently hit shelves, depicts a child, whose hair is full and natural, staring into a mirror and viewing herself as a princess. La Negra says she saw the book as a way to give back to the Afro-Latina community where she grew up.

"It's extremely important to teach little girls to embrace... who they are..."

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"With all the pressures in society and from social media to have perfect lips and perfect skin and a perfect waist and perfect everything," she says, "I think it's extremely important to teach little girls to embrace the texture of their hair, their melanin, who they are, even if they're a little chunky, skinny — it doesn't matter! You're beautiful the way you are."

La Negra — born Diana Danelys De Los Santos — was raised in Hialeah by a single mom who emigrated from the Dominican Republic. She's been in front of a camera for most of her life: She grew up making regular appearances on Univision's Sábado Gigante and notched a viral Spanish-language hit with her 2013 single "Ayy." But her U.S. career didn't explode until she appeared on the MTV reality series Love and Hip-Hop: Miami alongside Magic City music icons Trina and Trick Daddy, as well as other artists. La Negra — whose massive personality is impossible to ignore — outshone them all.

Along the way, she's endured truly absurd and horrendous harassment and shaming about her looks and background: She's been accused of being a lighter-skinned Latina in darker makeup, insultingly "parodied" by a woman in blackface on Dominican TV, told to get rid of her Afro, and constantly hit with racial slurs on the internet. She is committed to succeeding in spite of her ignorant critics — and with every spot that her music climbs on the charts, success becomes that much easier for girls who look like her.

Introduction | Colin Foord and Jared McKay of Coral Morphologic