How a Puerto Rican Model Proved She’s More Than Her Measurements
As a New York transplant from Santa Isabel, Puerto Rico, being boricua is one of the things I’m most proud of, and I feel even more blessed to carry the curves that come along with being Hispanic. When asked what being a Puerto Rican Bombshell means to me, the answer is simple: everything.
Making the transition from modeling in Puerto Rico to Miami to New York City has been eventful for me — even though it helped me realized I’m capable of so much more than what other people might think from taking a look at my measurements.
But let me start at the beginning. Being raised by a strong Latina woman, I have learned to carry myself with confidence and be proud of who I am. But it took me some time to get there. Like most kids I was teased in school, whether it was for my ears sticking out, for being too skinny or for having frizzy hair, there was always something that made me feel like I wasn’t pretty enough so you can imagine my reaction when my parents told me I should try modeling. (Who? Me? Model? Oh hell no!)
Then one day, a modeling school opened up near my house in Puerto Rico and I decided it would be a good way to meet new people and to start coming out of my shell. To my surprise, I immediately fell in love with it and realized that I actually possessed the talent to do it.
Modeling in Puerto Rico was great. I felt wanted, I felt beautiful, I felt like I was 6 feet tall. Fast forward a few years to me deciding I wanted it to be my full-time career — where better to do it than the holy mecca, New York City?
Oh, how quickly reality hit me! I’m only 5’8″ ( 5’7 1/2 but what’s an extra half inch really?) so immediately, agencies would turn me down for being too short. Some said I had to lose a few inches off my hips (a problem I never had when I modeled in PR or Miami) and some just didn’t know what to do with me, whether it be pushing me for fashion clients or more commercial work.
It was strange because the rejection actually fueled my fire and increased the confidence I had in myself. Not once did I say to myself, “Well, I guess I better start my lettuce and water diet. “Quite the opposite. There was no way in hell I was going to give up my booty. I just knew that there would be someone that would appreciate not only my body type but everything else I had to offer.
With the perseverance and resilience my family always instilled in me, I kept knocking on doors and signed with an agency in the concrete jungle! Just a few months after signing I booked a job with one of my dream clients: Victoria’s Secret! Granted it was just a showroom job, but it was the best day of my life when I got the call from my agent telling me I booked it.
Rumor has it working showroom for the prestigious brand is how Candice Swanepoel got her start there so that was definitely the moment when I thought “Wow I can actually make it here in this city!”
Although nothing else really panned out from working a few times with VS, no one can ever take away the feeling I got every time I walked into that building and put on a VS robe. Whenever I go to a casting that didn’t go too well or get told I’m not right for a certain job, I just go back to that moment and remember that I’m an island girl that made it to the big city of dreams who has never had the balls to quit anything in my life before so I sure as hell won’t start now. I refuse to live a life of “what ifs” in a world where impossible is nothing.
Working in an industry where you’re constantly being told what’s beautiful and what’s not, it can be tough to accept your physical features if they’re not the “standard.” Being Puerto Rican, you’re made up of a Spanish, Taino, and African mix so it can be hard to categorize yourself. But then again, why should we be forced to? Our differences are what make us beautiful. That’s why whenever I walk into a casting and I’m asked what my nationality is, you better believe I stand up tall, flaunt what my mama gave me and say with sabor*, “Puerto Rican.”
Thanks to models like Joan Smalls and Anne Marie Kortright, we Puerto Ricans have a presence in the modeling industry. But I feel like it could be way stronger. There is so much talent on that island, but girls are afraid of being rejected because of the “standard requirements” the industry asks us for.
Although the industry has gotten better at showing diversity, I would love to see way more Latinas of all shapes and sizes representing in the modeling world. And I’m not just talking the stereotypical Latina look of long brown hair, tan skin, boobs and ass, but the Latina women that have the confidence of a million girls inside them.
We always seem to be cast as the “Hot Latina” or “sexy voluptuous girl” which don’t get me wrong is totally fine, I’m all about embracing that and am proud to be that but that’s not all we can do, there is more to us. Case in point: Puerto Rican Yeezy model Braina Laviena is 5’6″ and is BOMB AF.
I remember asking my agency if I could start doing more fashion editorials and more edgy test shoots because I wanted to break out of my comfort zone and show that I can do more and emote more than one emotion but unfortunately they thought it best I stick to my swimwear and lingerie modeling, which like I said is great, I love being sexy, that’s when I feel most confident but just like many men may have already found out if they have/had a hispanic girlfriend, we are stubborn as hell. If we want something we’re determined to get it and that is when our stubbornness comes in handy because we won’t quit.
So I set MYSELF up with a test shoot with a fashion photographer I had been wanting to work with for awhile now and after our shoot he told me he was pleasantly surprised at the fact that I could project more than just “Sex Kitten” and that I should be doing more editorials. Also, I sent my agency those photos and they ended up putting them in my book.
Overcoming adversity is almost like a drug to me, whenever I get the chance to prove someone wrong and show them what I can really do when I strip away my stereotypical role I get an instant high. You don’t ever want to try a Latina because we WILL make you eat your words.
A huge part of working in this industry is having thick skin, you need it to survive. To be honest, if it weren’t for my roots, I don’t think I would have pursued my dreams as head-strongly as I have. If it weren’t for the passionate spirit the women of my culture possess, I know I wouldn’t have achieved my goals — my REAL goals. I probably would have just conformed with my bachelor’s degree in marketing, had a 9-5 job, and been comfortable…but not happy.
If it weren’t for seeing the sacrifices my family made to see me live out my dreams I know I wouldn’t be where I am today. I remember when I first started modeling in Puerto Rico, when either my mom or dad would take me to all of my castings and shoots, and they would sit in the car for hours or hang around set waiting for me to finish. Sometimes we would get home at midnight from a job and they would have work the next day but it never fazed them. They wanted to see their daughter happy doing what she loved and for that I am forever grateful so how could I not continue the pursuit of my dreams and show them that all of the late nights, long drives and long periods of time without seeing each other was worth it?
Family is the core of my culture, it’s family over everything all day and if it weren’t for my support system back home I sure as hell would not have survived the dog-eat-dog nature of New York City.
In my 26 years I have grown to embrace my body, my thick and sometimes not so tame hair, my culture and most importantly my fire that, no matter the circumstance, can never be put out. Now all I think we need is for more of us to be given the chance to flex on ourselves a little more, like come on Givenchy, Céline & Balmain (to name a few) I know a whole squad of 5’8″, 36-inch-hip girls like myself just waiting for the opportunity to strut their stuff for your next collection.
Representing for my ladies and for PR fills me with pride and I just hope to inspire even one girl that reads my story, I hope she finds the courage to believe in her beauty and her strength and know that she is ENOUGH and the world wants all that she has to offer.