Last night, I received a tweet from Linda Nieves Powell with a link to her video project, The JLo Mystique. At the time, I was at the League of Extraordinary Latinas Meet the Authors event at The Beauty Vault, signing and selling copies of my book, Love Trips: A Collection of Relationship Stumbles. So I couldn’t watch the video right then, but I supported Linda and retweeted the link because I knew The JLo Mystique would be intriguing. Jennifer Lopez is titillating and controversial all on her own. Add Linda’s knack for storytelling and her strong vision and I knew it get me and other Latinas riled up.
What I took from it was so much more and much larger than La Lopez (and her “Booty”). As I watched the hour-long video (it’s long, but so worth it) one word kept coming to mind: support.
Why do Latinas struggle to support other Latinas professionally? Why do women fail to unify to create something great, something just for us? Why are so many Latinas all about self like Jennifer Lopez seems to be?
These are some questions that came to mind while watching women criticize JLo’s approach, intention, message, and image. Jenny from the Block just can’t seem to win. That makes me wonder if I can – if you can – when I – you – attain that much success. Because if I succeed, you succeed. That’s how many of us feel when a compatriota’s star rises, especially in Hollywood. That’s how most of us felt about Lopez when she wowed us in Selena. So what changes? We set expectations and when these woman, in this case JLo, fail we feel disappointed. Hurt. Betrayed even. Roaring support soon transforms into even louder criticism and hate.
I’ve done it. I’ve had a “why not me” mindset. I’ve thought, “what does she have that I don’t have?” It’s ugly. I’ve also been in a position where I can help Latinas and do, while friends don’t help a sista out. Instead of sharing contacts, they hoard these influential connections for fear of sharing the spotlight. Unfortunately, like Sofia Quintero pointed out about JLo, many of us come from an individualistic standpoint. It’s not about sisterhood or community building. It’s about self.
This much I know to be true: whether you are an activist, a self-first go-getter or both, Latinas need to support one another even if they don’t agree with each other. Women need to collaborate not outdo. How can we do this? I’ve thought of some ways.
1. Do you while remaining open. Yes, you should look out for self. Pursue your goals. Work hard. Grind. Make decisions based on what you desire, not what your family or the community thinks you should do. This is what Jennifer Lopez has always done. She is insanely successful because of it. She is also criticized because she only thinks of herself, or at least that’s the perception. We as women need to focus on being self-first while still being open to helping others along the way and thinking of the bigger picture.
2. Support what you believe in; don’t put down what you don’t. I tweeted the link to this video because I support Linda and her work. We’re friends on Facebook and have worked together in the past. I believe she is talented. I would not have tweeted the video’s link otherwise. Bottom line, just because someone is Latina doesn’t mean that I have to support what they create. If I don’t believe in it, I won’t rally for it. That doesn’t make me a hater. It makes me an authentic person who has vast interests and preferences. But I don’t put the work or the person down. I didn’t like JLo’s “Booty” song or video so I didn’t tweet or post about it. I also didn’t bash her because I didn’t like it. Just because we don’t believe or like a Latina’s talent or product doesn’t mean we have to put her down.
3. Be human first. In the video, Katilia said that she is human first. Yes! I agree and often state that though I love being Latina and it is a part of my identity, it is not all of me. If we remembered this, we’d be less hard on ourselves, other women, and Latinas. And maybe even JLo.
4. Ask for what you want from your female counterparts. I admit that I struggle with asking for favors even from my friends. So I shoot myself in the foot. I feel others don’t help me yet I haven’t asked for their aid! I believe it’s because of pride. Latinos are a proud bunch. Some of us have also been burned by other Latinos. The last thing we want to do is be vulnerable again. But we must. We must ask for what we want in order to receive it. The worse thing they can say is no.
5. Don’t expect anyone to do anything for you. Ah, this one is also tough for me. I expect my fellow Latinas to support me as I support them. I also expect my peers to see me in need, see the community in need, and lend a helping hand. That’s what most of us expected from Jennifer Lopez. But as Cynthia, the well-spoken feminist in the video stated, we cannot place that burden or responsibly on her or on anyone else for that matter.
6. Back to doing you. At the end of the day, how you feel about yourself is what matters. Jennifer Lopez has to live in her skin, as do we. Let’s stop expecting her to be something that she is not. Let’s celebrate who we are and what we contribute as individuals, even if it’s not what we desire from one another. That’s how we can truly show support and rise as Latinas.