This Latina teen found herself through photography

You may have stumbled upon Valeria’s vibrant and ethereal images on the gram, and were enchanted by her work’s bright colors, vivid glows, and quirky makeup looks.

The story of how, at only 17, she came to become the photographer she is today also holds a powerful message — one that speaks to embracing diversity, challenging beauty standards, and discovering your passion.

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Photo by Valeria @val.ok
Alexandria Leigh Rugel @kittygal (Puerto Rican and Ecuadorean) and Veronica Rojas ( Colombian)

When Valeria was growing up in Colombia, she found herself surrounded by colorful scenery and bright culture that would eventually serve as inspiration for her own artistic vision. Upon moving to the States and struggling to fit in as a Latina women, she helped lift other Latina girls up by depicting them in beautifully crafted images that embrace their natural features but flaunt a sense of heightened beauty, integrating pops of color and unique makeup looks.

“I was never really surrounded by Latina girls growing up at school, so it became frustrating when I felt out of place because I didn’t look the same as my Caucasian friends,” says Valeria.

With the normal pressures of white-washed beauty standards and growing up, being involved in dance also forced her to grapple with self-esteem issues. As she came of age, Valeria felt more comfortable with cultural self expression and also found a way to channel her artistic energy while providing a platform for Latina voices through film.

“I started seeing the lack of diversity in the film industry, well in a lot of industries,” she said. “So sophomore year I started to photograph individuals and create my own visuals expressing my ideas. I started to gain a lot of support by people I knew in real life and online. I found my purpose.”


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Another essential part to her artistic discovery was her passion for experimenting with makeup.

“I started exploring makeup looks and looking up to Latina artist,” Valeria said. “I started to wear bright eyeshadows all the time, bold eyeliners, and sometimes red lipstick, it wasn’t really the normal basic look but liked it. In high school.”

Valeria’s journey as an artist and photographer should inspire you to make that leap. In terms of finally testing your artistic ability and venturing into a new, fulfilling hobby, or overcoming your insecurities and accepting the fact that you are beautiful in your own skin.

“Being comfortable as a Latina in America is still in the works, but I hope that my photography helps people with their confidence and helping people to be open to diversity,” says Valeria.

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