After honoring the likes of Selena Quintanilla-Perez and Rita Moreno, Puerto Rican photographer Linda Nieves-Powell returns with the second edition to her “Latina Icons” series. By no coincidence, the visual artist unveiled her tribute to seven game-changing Afro-Latina women on Wednesday (Feb. 15), just in time for Black History Month.
“The African diaspora has a Caribbean component. The Latino story cannot be told without acknowledging our African roots,” she told VIBE Viva over email. “As we celebrate black history we should acknowledge the depth of that history. Our story is black history.”
Beyond a mere re-creation of Queen of Latin Soul La Lupe to Queen of Salsa Celia Cruz’s finest moments in front of the camera, the “Tribute to Afro Latina Icons” speaks to the power of representation. “[This] is about identity and how I can help those in my community who do not feel they meet the standard of beauty in this country to create their own identity and standard of beauty,” she explained. “What has changed in 30 years? The world still believes that white is the most beautiful thing you can be. It’s sad. I love these photos not because I took them, [but] because when I watch the slideshow and see those beautiful faces, in many ways it heals and inspires me, and I do hope that other Latinas will feel the same.”
In fact, the multi hyphenate more than likely wouldn’t be engaging in this conversation had it not been for Irene Cara. “I was really young when I first saw Fame, and I too wanted to be a dancer, actor, performer,” the New York native said. “I wanted more than anything to attend the High School of Performing Arts, but my parents thought it was a waste of time to pursue the arts and didn’t allow me to try out, so Irene Cara, a young Cuban-Puerto Rican woman doing exactly what I wanted to do, made me believe it was possible. And I ended up doing exactly what mom and pop told me not to do.”
As for what to expect from “Latina Icons” in the future, Nieves-Powell revealed hopes to expand beyond the realm of famous names. “The word iconic should not be limited to just those individuals who are considered trailblazers as I plan on photographing ordinary women who are accomplishing extraordinary things. So my work isn’t just going to be about re-creations; it’s going to highlight Latina excellence and celebrate Latinidad,” she affirmed.
“[For] me the word iconic in ‘Latina Icons’ can also include a single mother who is holding it down for the family while pursuing her dream job. [What] makes someone iconic to me is strength, determination, fearlessness, authenticity, cultural pride, vision and, above all, a clear sense of self. Someone who doesn’t use societal standards as the gauge to measure her greatness but instead creates her own benchmark for excellence.”
Check out more of “Tribute to Afro Latina Icons” here.