4 Afro-Dominican Models Cover Vogue Latin America’s September Issue
Afro, crooked teeth, brown skin, Dominicana — am I looking at myself in the mirror? No, of course not, I am not 10 feet tall and don’t have perfect cheekbones, but still, I feel so seen. There are four black as hell Dominican models on the cover of the 2019 September issue of Vogue Latin America. You will not hear the end of this in my Afro-Latinx household. You didn’t have to go so hard, Vogue. But really you did because this is long overdue.
The Black Dominican models featured are Licett Morillo, Manuela Sánchez, Annibelis Baez, and Ambar Cristal. Their skin is brown, their hair is natural, and they are no less Latinx than anybody else. This is a moment. We have so few of them, it’s OK to take a beat and savor them. No, racism hasn’t ended. But when the beautiful marriage of your racial heritage and your culture are largely invisible, and even diminished by your community, moments like this are special. So let us Afro-Dominicans have this. Let us indulge in our beauty because it has been forbidden for too long.
Born in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, Manuela Sánchez has become something of an It girl. In 2017, Harpers Bazaar alerted the fashion-consuming public to be on the lookout for the then-16-year-old Sánchez. The teenager had been discovered by Luis Menieur Model Management while at school, only a year before. Known for her poise on the catwalk, Sánchez has walked in shows for Fendi, Valentino, Louis Vuitton, Prada, Dior and Versace. Yes, mi gente in the mainstream, baby.
“I am from Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. We have many beautiful beaches, food and so much culture. Punta Cana has one of the most beautiful beaches in my country,” she told Harpers Bazaar.
The 5 foot 10 stunner also hails from Santo Domingo. Licett Morillo has already proved to be a disruptive force when she became the first woman of color to close a Prada show in 2018. Naomi Campbell was the first to open one in 1997 and in 2018, Anok Yai became the second. Yeah, fashion has a diversity issue. After being laid off from her job at a plastic factory, Morillo enrolled in school. It was on her way there one day that she was scouted to become a model.
“A lady called Nileny Dippton came over to me and asked, ‘Are you a model?’ and of course, I responded ‘no way!’ I was so late for class, I had to rush off, but Nileny gave me her business card and I got in touch,” Morillo told Dazed and Confused.
After sending in a few polaroids to IMG Models’ associate director of scouting, Luis Domingo, Morillo was on a plane to Milan for her first show. Morillo never dreamed of being a model because she never saw herself in magazines.
Models don’t usually look like us.
“In the Dominican Republic, women who are considered beautiful look very different to me and models I saw in magazines looked very different to me. So honestly, it didn’t even cross my mind,” Morillo said.
It hurts to hear that anyone this beautiful could think they were not, but that’s colorism for you. It distorts the truth.
Annibelis Baez has walked for some major fashion titans including, Dior Haute Couture, Kenzo, and Lanvin.
“Fue maravilloso poder formar parte de un trabajo tan maravilloso @voguemexico Muchas Gracias por esta tremenda oportunidad, fue una experiencia increíble, música,baile y risas. Compartir entre amigas fue lo mas divertido. Como olvidar cada detalle,” she wrote of the photoshoot on Instagram.
Cristal expressed deep gratitude for Dominican representation on Instagram. She urged fellow Dominicans that regardless if you come from humble beginnings, dreams can come true.
“Hoy quiero dar gracias a Dios una vez más, ver mi rostro en la portada de Vogue, es como seguir creyendo en los cuentos de hadas,” Cristal wrote. “Vengo de una familia muy humilde en mi país, mi madre nos educó vendiendo habichuelas blanditas en nuestro barrio de la Toronja, hoy quiero que todos los jóvenes Dominicanos no dejen de soñar y que sepan que todo se puede conseguir con Fe y mucho trabajo.”
They hate to see it!
While there is much more work to do in terms of Afro-Latinx representation, all I can say is I am so lucky to be alive in a time where I get to see four women who look like my family on the cover of Vogue. There is a younger version of me who was starved for this. There is a younger version of me who is wistfully clinging onto every page.