Dany Garcia, Dascha Polanco, and Lilliana Vazquez Talk Latinidad, Body Image, and Racial Stereotypes
Watch Dany Garcia's #LatinxTheMosaic discussion, featuring Dascha Polanco, Lilliana Vazquez, Nadia Hallgren, and Robin Arzón.
On Tuesday, Cuban American global chairperson and professional bodybuilder Dany Garcia hosted #LatinxTheMosaic, a virtual panel featuring actress Dascha Polanco, TV reporter Lilliana Vazquez, Peloton vice president of fitness programming Robin Arzón, filmmaker Nadia Hallgren, and Fordham University professor Tanya Kateri Hernandez.
These powerful Latinas came together to discuss important topics like how to break stereotypes within the Latino community when it comes to race, body image, and other issues. "Body image, and especially from a fitness perspective, is really something that works against the Latinx community. There is this conversation of, 'Oh, you're curvy or you're too curvy, or are you slim, can you get your hips slim, your hips are too big.' All of a sudden, the way a natural body type is becomes something that can also be judged," Garcia said during the discussion. "It was important to me to always be Dany Garcia — Latina, Cuban bodybuilder, because I was breaking stereotypes on how a body should look. I think that freedom of how I want my body to look and protecting that and being very proud about that is very important."
Dominican American actress Dascha Polanco opened up about her experience as an Afro-Latina. "I grew up around Puerto Ricans and lucky enough in Brooklyn it was so diverse ... you had friends from all over the world," she said. "Then it was like, 'So you know Dominicans are Black?' I'm like, 'Yeah, half my family's dark-skinned so I know we're Black.' So now the question is, 'Are you Black or are you Spanish?' I'm like, 'Well, I speak Spanish, but I'm not from Spain.' It's interesting that now we're in a time where people think they need to pick a side or switch sides, but it's not about that. It's about embracing your origin and knowing that I support my Blackness, I support my indigenous, I support my Caribbean, I support my roots, and that's what's important."
Filmmaker Nadia Hallgren, of Puerto Rican descent, also discussed how she defied conventional beauty standards with her curly hair. "For me a lot of it was around my hair. The Puerto Rican girls that were in my class, they had straight, beautiful hair. When we would hang out or we would get dressed up to go out, they would say, 'Oh, what is this? You have to do something about that hair,' and it always made me feel bad about the way that I looked or that it just wasn't considered something that was beautiful," she recalled. "Also not speaking Spanish. There was this huge gap in what was considered me being Puerto Rican enough. Then at the same time my mom's Puerto Rican so I was raised with a very strong Puerto Rican identity, and so it was a lot of confusion for me around identity my whole time growing up. I think that is something that pushes me to try and explore that pretty much for my whole life."
Meanwhile, Mexican American style expert and TV reporter Lilliana Vazquez talked about people not thinking she is Latina because she is too light-skinned. "Going back to feeling shame, I am somebody who is 'white-passing' because not only do I look white, but I also sound white. This is just how I sound, like I don't think that Mexicans sound one way or another, but I know how difficult that is for women that have come up in my industry with me that have a hint of an accent, whatever that accent might be," she shared. "I think it becomes a question of who's in charge of those opportunities and how do we shift that so that we become more open-minded to the fact that we don't look one way. It's what Dascha said: We represent our roots, we represent our culture, we don't look one way, and there is not a single narrative that exists to represent who we are as a culture."