When Latin star Amara Le Negra decided to join the cast of “Love and Hip Hop: Miami,” she saw an outlet to the mainstream market. Le Negra’s debut made a huge impact on viewers of the cable TV show not only for her talent but also because she took on one of the most-controversial topics: colorism.
Colorism is discrimination based on skin tone. Colorism traces back to slavery when slave masters would give fairer skin slaves better treatment, such as being allowed to work indoors. It is an ism that categorizes Black and Brown people by the amount of melanin in their skin.
“It really makes me feel like it’s unfair that we are judged based on our looks and not just our talent or knowledge,” the singer, dancer and actress told The Miami Times. Le Negra whose real name is Dana Danelys De Los Santos has cocoa-brown skin and grey eyes. She is often seen wearing her hair in a grand Afro.
During one of the first episodes of the reality show, “Love and Hip Hop: Miami,” Le Negra was criticized for her hair style. During an exchange with producer Young Hollywood, he told Le Negra if she changed her appearance to look like singer, Beyonce’s, she could be “elegant and breathtaking.” Beyonce is often seen with blonde or light-colored hair, which she wears in a variety of styles, excluding Afros.
“So, are you saying that I cannot be elegant with an Afro?” Le Negra asked her cast member on the episode to which, he replied yes.
Le Negra, who is of Dominican descent, said that growing up in Hialeah, she didn’t feel different because Miami has a diverse community of Latin Americans.
But in the Latin entertainment industry things were contrary.
“There weren’t any people who looked liked me; there weren’t even people who looked even a little bit lighter because you were still too dark for what they consider an Afro-Latina to look like,” said Le Negra, who started acting at 4.
“They never knew where to place me because they would put me all the way in the back or in the middle, so I wouldn’t take the attention or the focus of the audience.”
Le Negra, 29, said being vocal about the unfairness of colorism and any injustice has always been her mission.
Being a leader also comes with great responsibility, she added.
At a viewing for the second episode of the show in January 2018, Le Negra met a girl who said she was inspired by seeing Le Negra on the TV screen.
“She came and hugged me, and she started crying and said to me that she didn’t feel as beautiful because she was being bullied in school,” said Le Negra. “She looked at me, and I looked pretty in her eyes.”
Le Negra remembers having that feeling herself growing up. She was able to find a role model in Celia Cruz, an Afro-Cuban singer.
It is important that children see images of themselves in media, she said. “What would happen to those little girls growing up now? Will they have someone to look up to within their own community?”
As a result, Le Negra has published a children’s book “Amacita’s Way,” which promotes positive self-image in dark-skinned children. On the cover is an illustration of a girl, who looks like the cartoon version of Le Negra. She wants to take the Amacita to the next level, and create a cartoon show with the Afro-Latina version of “Dora the Explorer.”
“That would truly be a dream come true for me,” she said.