It started with a vision of an empowering statement that young, bold Black Latina women could wear proudly – and it became a thriving business. Bianca Kea, founder of clothing and lifestyle brand Yo Soy AfroLatina, is a determined Afro-Mexicana proving that la cultura has power in the business world. Her brand puts the AFRO in Latindad and speaks volumes about representation and pride in our identities and culture.
Beyond its products, Yo Soy AfroLatina (YSAL) has grown into a movement that raises consciousness by paying respect to the African Diaspora, infused with Latinx traditions and influence. Whether you’re repping the YSA 90’s themed tee or feeling sunkissed in the Morenita crop tee, YSAL aims to help you feel celebrated and revolutionary.
Growing up Afro-Latina in the Midwest, Bianca Kea expressed how there was very limited space for Latinas in Detroit and mainstream media. This inspired her to create Yo Soy Afro-Latina encourage women like her to fully embrace their cultural identities – Latina and Black, and definitely enough.
Tell me about your brand, Yo Soy Afro Latina. What inspired it? Where do you draw your influences from?
Yo Soy AfroLatina is an e-commerce small business that highlights the beauty, experiences, and cultures of Afro Latinas through our custom merch. I got the idea for YSAL in 2016 when I was living in LA, I remember feeling isolated. It was difficult to make new friends and find a space where I could exist with both of my identities without feeling like I had to choose.
I was living in a studio apartment by myself so I had a lot of time to spare and began pouring into this passion project, while also learning more about my cultures and educating myself on my history. It was a powerful experience, which is why I wanted to create pieces that were bold, empowering, and cute.
My influences come from a multitude of things, nostalgic movies, TV shows, music, pop culture, and anything Selena. I also pull a lot of inspiration from what my mom and cousins used to wear back in the 90s. I was a child at that time so I wasn’t able to partake in certain fashion trends but now that I’m older I like to go back in my vault of memories and use that as a reference point when creating new pieces for YSAL.
How is your brand working to amplify Afro-Latina voices and identity?
We’ve recently started collaborating with other Black and Latinx creators to help us amplify our message and educate our community on our history and the current social climate.
In what ways do you effectively promote your brand?
We’re an e-commerce business so we leverage social media marketing strategies to promote awareness, reach our target audience, and drive traffic to our website. We’ve also explored influencer marketing to collaborate with other Black and Latinx creatives to promote our brand and amplify rising creatives.
What makes your brand stand out from your competitors?
We’re the first e-commerce business to promote the intersection of Black and Latina culture through our custom merch. I also believe that our authenticity, pride, and representation for our culture sets us apart from our competitors, we’re the only brand that is an outward-facing Black brand in a space that is predominately saturated with “white-passing” or light-skinned Latinos.
As an Afro-Mexican woman, what was your journey like to becoming an entrepreneur? What kinds of challenges did you encounter? Did anything from your background or culture help you?
I never imagined I would be an entrepreneur, that word wasn’t even in my vocabulary as a child. I come from a working-class family of Detroit hustlers who understand the struggle of trying to make ends meet, so I was also always exposed to the “entrepreneurship mentality.” But I never envisioned I would grow up and become an entrepreneur myself.
At the beginning of my entrepreneurship journey, I didn’t really come across too many challenges. There were the usual production challenges like finding the right manufacturer, which I was able to overcome using YouTube and a deep Google search. But since then, my biggest hurdle has been trying to find ways to continue to fund YSAL and its growing community.
Black and Latinx women combined received just 0.64% of total venture capital investment between 2018-2019 (Fortune, 2020), however, we are the fastest-growing group of entrepreneurs. In short, the struggle is real and I’m hoping to find ways to overcome that static this year.
What advice do you have for other Black Latinas who want to become entrepreneurs?
My advice is to do it! Entrepreneurship can be a difficult and lonely road, however, if you have the vision then I don’t see what’s stopping you. Start small when building out your brand or company, file for that LLC, secure your domain, and continue to take small steps every day until you get to your goal.
Do you feel like there’s a lack of representation of Black Latinas in the fashion industry? What should the industry and consumers do to address this?
Yes, I definitely feel like there’s a lack of representation of Black Latinas in the fashion industry. There are so many small businesses run by powerful Afro-Latinas, and I feel like we’re only thought of when it’s time for “new content” for Black History Month or Hispanic Heritage Month. I think the industry can do a better job of including us in the conversation year-round vs. seasonally. As for consumers, continue to Shop Black even when it’s not the month of February, and if you don’t have the funds to support then go like their Facebook page, share their post or tell a friend about their brand.
How do you use your platform to educate on the existence of Black Latinas?
We work with content creators to produce content that is relatable, informative, and on-brand for YSAL. In addition, we provide resources to our social community that either highlight orgs, articles, or activists that we feel they should be aware of. For example, if you go to our IG link you’ll find articles that provide mental health resources for people of color and articles that touch on Anti-Black Racism within the Latino community and how we can fight it.
Where do you hope to take Yo Soy Afro Latina in the near future?
I hope to build an empire that has an impact on my community from scholarship funds for 1st generation college students (like myself), digital/social series that highlight and amplify Afro-Latinidad and rising Black and Latinx creatives. Lastly, I hope to partner with brands that align with the YSAL mission and vision, which is to empower Black women in the Latinx community and authentically celebrate our culture.