Fierce

Building Community: Latinas Take Media Representation into Their Own Hands

Tickets for the upcoming We All Grow Latina Summit — a networking and empowerment conference that draws over 500 women from across the U.S. and beyond — sold out in a record-breaking three hours and six minutes. The annual gathering, geared toward Latina bloggers, content producers, and creative entrepreneurs provides a vibrant networking space for attendees to share their professional journeys and provide inspiration and support for aspiring Latinas in the digital space. The event also features prominent beauty and lifestyle bloggers, TV, radio and social media personalities and company founders that share a common message — high-paying, professional careers are attainable, despite historic underrepresentation of successful Latinas in mainstream TV, news and magazines.

“Once you see it done, you can see yourself reflected and you have a path,” says Ana Flores, founder, and CEO of We All Grow Latina Network, the organization behind the popular summit. With a motto like “When one grows, we all grow,” the network is providing the representation Latinas need to continue to pursue goals such as one-day producing award-winning content, becoming spokespeople for major brands, or even starting a business.

Although Latinos continue to be one of the fastest-growing demographics in the United States, a gap in ethnic representation in the media persists. By producing informational webinars and workshops to help social media influencers monetize their content, connecting bloggers to brands for paid partnership opportunities and hosting events for creatives to engage with one another, the organization provides the tools necessary for Latinas to feel empowered to achieve career success in the face of lingering marginalization.

“I couldn’t see myself represented,” says Flores. As a working single mother, she felt that the online content she came across did not speak to her particular interests, nor did it come from a source that felt familiar to her. She explains that while she followed several popular parenting blogs, they often fell short in featuring content on topics like raising bilingual children in the U.S. and cooking traditional Latin dishes — that’s when she saw a need and decided to jump in.

“I’ve had to carve my own path,” she adds, “(I realized) I can create it on my own and reach to that community that doesn’t have anybody talking to them right now.” She first launched the online network in 2010 after recognizing a need for Latin American online content by Latin American bloggers, content creators, and entrepreneurs. Her mission to uplift and empower the Latina community by providing tools, community, and representation has grown into a national conference and an online network of nearly 10,000 connected Latinas that now leverage their newfound relationships for opportunities for advancement within the digital sector.

Representation at its core definition means “the description or portrayal of someone or something in a particular way or as being of a certain nature.” When put into the context of career advancement and opportunity, seeing someone achieve a particular milestone may have a galvanizing impact on one’s confidence, but the absence thereof may magnify negative feelings of self-worth.

According to a study by the International Encyclopedia of the Social & Behavioral Sciences, these effects can begin to form as early as the childhood years. “Media-based experiences contribute to users’ knowledge structures, including their person schemata (i.e., typical characteristics of people or groups of people) and their behavioral scripts (expectations of how people behave in particular situations),” say the researchers. This impact on how a child sees others, and in turn, how they see themselves has fueled Flores’ passion for her network.

“We have so many entrepreneurs right now, so many bloggers and influencers that have come from being teen moms, in gangs, growing up in South Central, talking about LA or Chicago et cetera, now being able to transform and share those stories and really give mentorship and inspiration to girls that think that there is no path for them because nobody is offering them that,” says Flores.

Representation, mentorship and role models have one thing in common: inspiration. “It’s so important to have someone to look up to — not one, but many people that can inspire you,” says Davina A. Ferreira, founder and CEO of Alegria Magazine. Founded in 2012, the bilingual media company praises the achievements of prominent Latinos and celebrates the beauty of Latino culture through the curation and publication of a luxury magazine distributed digitally and in print.

Before starting Alegria, Ferreira recognized a void within both English and Spanish mainstream media. “I saw that everything for Latinos and for Latinas was very low end,” says Ferreira, “I wanted to create a platform that was inspiring and high-end and shows respect to our community.”

As a Latina who’s passionate about providing representation and role models for the next generation, Ferreira noticed that most of the Latinos that made it to top network news were celebrities and entertainers. While Alegria covers pop culture topics as well, there’s an effort to feature stories of other Latinos, such as Spring 2018 cover girls Millana Snow, Edna Chavez, Julissa Arce, and Sarahi Espinoza, who have achieved success as social activists, authors and company founders, and deserve a moment in the media spotlight.

Although more Latinos are going to college than ever before, many tend to be the first in their families to pursue higher education, which can make professional career mentorship an entirely new experience. “Latinos living here (in the United States) don’t see a lot of those role models growing up or in their family,” says Ferreira, “It’s so important for them to really look forward and pursue their dreams and get the confidence to just think a little different outside of their environment.”

While some major news sites may seem like they’re focused on covering people and companies that already have more press than they can list in their ‘about me’ section, Entrepreneur Magazine says they’re always in search for unique entrepreneurial stories. “We’re always looking for stories that will be valuable to our reader, so that’s our priority,” says Stephanie Schomer, Deputy Editor at Entrepreneur. But where does representation come into play? Though she is a white woman working for a 41-year-old American magazine founded by a white man, she explains that both she and the magazine recognize that their readership is diverse and needs to feel both represented and acknowledged.

“It’s not just about checking a box,” says Schomer, “Covering the entrepreneurial journeys of women, people of color, and women of color is how we can best serve our audience.” With successful spin-off magazines like Women Entrepreneur, it’s clear the publisher values serving specialized content to targeted audiences. “Different points of view and different opinions are the bread and butter of entrepreneurship, so to do our job well and inspire our readers, we need to make sure they’re hearing from many voices,” Schomer adds. As far as the rest of the major news sites, Schomer admits that there’s work to be done in both storytelling and newsroom staffing. It will take a combination of strong diverse voices and mainstream leadership that’s willing to listen to a new generation of innovators in order to turn the spotlight on inspiring stories that would otherwise go unnoticed by major publications. The Latino population throughout the nation is projected to undergo significant change when it comes to growth, education, representation, and career opportunity. Armed with a mission to establish a more accurate representation of what success looks like in the US, Latinas like Flores, Ferreira and many others are continuing to build online and offline communities to grow their networks, ignite empowerment and feel represented. “I know we’re there,” says Flores. “I know that there are incredible women that can be featured and doing everything from astronauts to entrepreneurs, to STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) — we’re there.

Notice any needed corrections? Please email us at corrections@wearemitu.com

Christina Haswood Wore Traditional Navajo Clothing Made By Her Bisabuela To Her Swearing-In Ceremony And It Was The Most Powerful Look Of 2021 So Far

Fierce

Christina Haswood Wore Traditional Navajo Clothing Made By Her Bisabuela To Her Swearing-In Ceremony And It Was The Most Powerful Look Of 2021 So Far

H. Armstrong Roberts/ Getty

Newly elected member of the Kansas House of Representatives, Christina Haswood, paid tribute to her heritage on the day of her swearing-in ceremony with the ultimate power look. Dressed in traditional Navajo attire, the 26-year-old made history on Monday when she became the  youngest member of the Kansas legislature, and only its second Native American member. 

Haswood took her oath of office wearing traditional Diné regalia which she made with the help of her mother, and partner.

Wearing moccasins, a velveteen skirt, and a red blouse embellished with silver string made a point to highlight her heritage and identity. Speaking to Vogue in an interview about her clothing, Haswood explained that she “wanted to honor my ancestors and all their sacrifices for me to be here and in this job. I wanted to honor my family, who has taught me how to be a strong, young, Diné woman while growing up in Lawrence, Kansas.” 

In addition to her dress, Haswood wore heirlooms given to her by family members which included a squash blossom necklace, a belt given to her by her uncle, and an additional belt given to her by her shimá sání (grandmother). Her great grandmother also gave her the earrings she wore. In addition, she wore a tsiiyéé (a Navajo-style hair tie) that she made with her shimá sání.

“The significance of these pieces are priceless,” Haswood explained to Vogue. “Many of the pieces I wore that day only come out on special occasions, because of how old they are. I don’t have the funds to be a collector, so many of my pieces have been passed down to my mother, who lets me borrow them.”

Haswood gave a behind-the-scenes look of her swearing-in attire on a TikTok video that has gone viral with more than 500,000 views.

In the video, Haswood readies her hair and does her makeup before eventually getting help from her mother and grandmother to get dressed.

Haswood won the Democratic primary after running unopposed for a seat in the Kansas state legislature that represents District 10.

With degrees in public health from Haskell Indian Nations University and Arizona State University, Haswood also received a master’s degree in public health management from the Kansas University Medical Center.

At the moment, she also serves as a research assistant with the National Council of Urban Indian Health and the Center for American Indian Community Health. There she studies nicotine addiction in tribal youth and researches the impact of COVID-19 on indigenous groups.

“Just two years ago I was in graduate school, and my greatest worries were about getting a job and student loans,” Haswood said in an interview with the Daily Kansan. “Today, the world has changed.”

According to Esquire, four Native candidates ran for office in Kansas. This week, each of them won their primary elections.

Notice any needed corrections? Please email us at corrections@wearemitu.com

In Majo Molfino’s Debut Book, The Argentine Author Teaches Us How To Break Free from the Good Girl Myth

Fierce

In Majo Molfino’s Debut Book, The Argentine Author Teaches Us How To Break Free from the Good Girl Myth

It’s not uncommon to hear women share that they’ve sacrificed their career aspirations or passion projects because they didn’t align with the standards someone else set up for them. Majo Molfino wants women to stop subscribing to these external guidelines and, instead, follow frameworks that fortify their gifts and dreams.

In Break the Good Girl Myth, the Argentine-American author identifies five self-sabotaging tendencies she believes women need to relinquish in order to unleash their power and lead lives of purpose. 

HarperOne

According to Molfino, also a designer and women’s leadership expert, there are five so-called good girl myths: the Myth of Rules, following authority instead of trusting ourselves; the Myth of Perfection, demanding perfection in ourselves and others instead of accepting reality; the Myth of Logic, choosing logic over intuition; The Myth of Harmony, seeking harmony instead of embracing conflict; and the Myth of Sacrifice, putting other people’s needs ahead of our own.

“We pick these messages up as little girls, and that follows us into adulthood,” Molfino, who is also the host of the women’s empowerment podcast Heroine, tells FIERCE. “It’s the subconscious and self-sabotaging beliefs about ourselves that I believe hold women back in becoming their fullest expression.”

In her book, which was published this year by HarperOne, Molfino leans on mindfulness and practical design tools to help women first understand the myths that most actively thwart them from enjoying the lives they’re meant to be living as well as help them build the creative confidence they need to break free from these limiting myths and share their talents, visions and joys with the world.

“There are a lot of women who are brilliant and who are sitting on incredible gold, but they can sit on that gold for weeks, months or years, and part of the reason that they delay sharing their gifts is because of the five good girls myths,” she says. “I want women to read this and feel ready to become the women they’re meant to be instead of the women the world wants them to be.”

Understanding how some of these good girl myths have seeped into Latin American culture, and still permeate in many Latinx houses, Molfino breaks down some examples of how these good girls myths manifest for Latinas and how we can all work to resist them.

HarperOne

1. The pressure to take career paths we aren’t passionate about:

“In Latinx homes, there is the pressure to follow a conventional path, an economically secure path,” Molfino says. For the first-generation Latina, it looked like this: Getting the highest degree possible of education, like a Ph.D. or an MD, and reaching as high as possible in order to make money and elevate in life. “Forget about risky paths like entrepreneurship,” Molfino was told. However, she says she ultimately found her sense of purpose when she chased her dream and started her own business.

2. Feeling like we have to have babies:

In Break the Good Girl Myth, readers are introduced to one of Molfino’s clients who feels like she “should” be trying to have a baby with her husband, even though it’s not something she feels she wants at the moment. “Whenever I hear the word ‘should,’ I get a little suspicious,” Molfino says of the case. “There was so much ‘should’ in her language that it was clear she was really gripped by the Myth of Rules. This good-girl programming was really impacting every area of her life. She was choosing obligation and approval from her family, and what was done for generations, instead of what she truly wanted, and it was making her miserable.”

The author tells FIERCE that this isn’t uncommon in Latinx households, where there is a lot of focus on family, something she says, while beautiful, could force women into making decisions they aren’t ready for or that don’t align with their authentic self. 

One of the reasons Latinas self-sacrifice in this way is because of our desire to belong and connect. “Think about it: if you follow the rules, you’re going to gain approval from your tribe, your family, and you’re going to get that sense of belonging. So it’s hard to break away from it, because the benefits you get from following it are so high,” Molfino notes. 

3. Doing things we don’t want to do in order to make our parents proud:

If there’s one thing that ties the immigrant, or first-generation, experience in the U.S., it’s this urgency young people feel to make their parents proud given all the sacrifices that were made for them. “I’m the daughter of immigrants. I am an immigrant. And my entire life has been about being the best: be the best I can be, be the best daughter, be the best sister, be the best friend,” Molfino says. While it’s not wrong to want your parents to be proud of you, Molfino believes the pressure this puts on Latinas to be high-achievers in everything could be detrimental. “These are part of the pressures that we feel to be good instead of powerful or who we really are,” she adds.

4. Adopting self-sacrificing gender roles passed down through generations:

Growing up, our parents’ behaviors oftentimes send us louder messages than their lectures. As a child, Molfino knew that her mother gave up her law career in order to follow her husband’s career and become a mother. For Molfino, the message was clear: women make big sacrifices; men don’t. “If we saw our mothers putting families in front of their own dreams, their own goals, their own care, that’s our expectation now. We are going to feel the pressure that we need to be like that,”  Molfino says. While her mother has questioned surrendering her career in her later years, Molfino wants Latinas to push back on gender roles and expectations our mothers and ancestors were forced into in order to save us from leading lives where our passions aren’t being fortified and our dreams aren’t being realized. “It’s interesting to see how something like the myth of sacrifice gets passed down through generations. We’re talking about big stuff. It’s not something that’s going to change overnight. But it’s something we can start to bring awareness to: where was my great-grandmother, my grandmother, my mother and where am I in that lineage in terms of progress,” she says.

5. The pressure to look perfect:

The historic fetishization of Latinas has made many of us believe our worth comes from our appearance, and it has created a pressure to look flawless at all times. For Molfino, this ties into the Myth of Perfection. “There’s a lot of pressure for us to feel like we have to be the perfect wife, mother, the beautiful woman. You can feel the pressure to be that perfect woman. We’re walking on a tightrope,” she notes. For those struggling with this good girl myth, she offers a simple mantra: “I am worthy simply because I exist.” Molfino urges Latinas, and women everywhere, to understand that their worth is not conditional.

If any of these cases of good girl myths look familiar to you, you’ll benefit from picking up Break the Good Girl Myth, which is available for purchase where books are sold. Departing from these disempowered rules, Molfino warns, isn’t easy and won’t occur overnight. But she wants readers to take comfort in knowing they’re not alone in this journey of unlearning and encourages them to be patient and gracious with themselves. 

Notice any needed corrections? Please email us at corrections@wearemitu.com