By Jenay Wright – A bold and beautiful Black Nicaraguan and Belizean reina is documenting and showcasing her blackness proudly. She takes her followers on her expedition as she breaks barriers and tries to end the cycle of discrimination against Afro Descendants.
Ambitious aspiring model and entertainer, Shanice Vasquez is creating a statement and space for darker-skinned women to progress in a tough industry. As a dark-skinned Afro-Latina herself she understands the importance of highlighting Black Latinas in the modeling and entertaining scene.
Watch as Shanice defines her Afro – Latinidad identity and stands proudly in her skin.
What does being Afro-Latina mean to you?
Being Afro-latinx is an identity for me. I am a woman, a black woman as a matter of fact, who embraces both her blackness and Latin roots. It’s who I identify as a dark skin Latinx trying to create a platform in the entertainment industry for people who look like me.
How do you celebrate your Afro- Latinidad?
I celebrate my blackness by embracing it. I love being Afro – Latinx! It’s literally the best of both worlds. Who does not love being black and Latino? I know I do. It’s literally from the cuisine to the music and dancing. That is how I celebrate my Afro-latinidad.
Did you ever struggle shaping your identity?
Yes! I did from the time I was growing up. I was always put in a box. It was either, “I was not black enough” or “You don’t look Hispanic?”. It would be so discouraging especially when I spoke Spanish. The responses would be so shocking especially going to a club that would play bachata or cumbia. First question would always be, “How do you know this music?” That is why it is so important for me as Afro – Latinx to build a platform that will shed awareness for people like me. This is what helped shape the person I am today.
Tell me the highlights of growing up Nicaraguan + Belizean. Did you ever face any challenges?
I did because not a lot of people were aware of other Central American countries. When, other Latinos and/ or Hispanics see a black person speaking Spanish. They automatically assume either: Dominican, Cuban, or Boricua which is a huge stereotype. There are black people everywhere. So, when I say I am Nicaraguan.
It’s like I grew two heads but it’s believable when I say I am also Belizean. Because, there are black people associated in the Caribbean. Most of the time, some people never heard of Nicaragua or let alone know where it is. But that is why I am so proud of claiming both sides. It’s still a battle but it’s progressing.
Do you see a lack of representation of Black Nicaraguans? How can we change that stigma?
I do see it! When there is usually someone who is of lighter skin. I am not trying to dismiss someone’s blackness, but it would be such a breath of fresh air to see someone with Lupita Nyong’o complexion.
We can change this by using social media and reaching out to people with African descent. Social media is such a powerful tool and it should be utilized!
How do you embrace your roots equally being from a blended culture?
I feel it’s easy to embrace both cultures equally seeing as the Caribbean and Latin American have similarities. We are all the same and all our parties are lit! So, for me being both, I embraced it proudly.
Do you align your Belizean roots with the Latino population?
Of Course all the time! The Caribbean and Latin America share cultural similarities. We are all the same, I never felt the need to shy away from Belizean roots.
What triggered your passion for modeling?
The lack of representation triggered it for me. It bothers me as a dark skin Afro-latinx that I do not see someone who looks like me ripping the runway. Someone who I can relate to. It’s my passion to make a difference and defy the odds of what a Latina is supposed to look like, especially as a model.
How will you incorporate your Afro – Latinidad into your modeling career?
I will use my voice! Being black is beautiful and Latinos come in all different colors of the rainbow. I want to be on the television screen and on the runway rocking my Afro speaking my Spanish and having a little morenita say she looks up to me. I want to use my platform that we Afro – Latinas are here to take over!
Any advice for Afro-Latinas looking for a space in the modeling industry?
Do not let anyone put you in a box. Our culture is not trend and being black does not take away from your Latinidad. If they do then create your own space, just like I did. We are all here to win and that we are tired of the European standard. We are enough!